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.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

South Beach: Key Lime Pie

A few weeks ago we snuck away with some friends for a warm weather getaway to Miami. We spent the weekend enjoying the outdoors, the sunshine, and the delicious food available in South Beach. I had a few items on my “to-do” list of things to eat while I was down there: stone crabs, mojitos, plantains, and key lime pie. Within the first two days, I had checked off every item!

We had a great meal at Joe’s Stone Crabs, which we capped off with their famous key lime pie. Before heading home, I stopped in a grocery store and picked up some key limes to bring back with me. I made a key lime pie in my own kitchen to bring us a little taste of Miami in our winter wonderland here.

I fortunately bought two bags of key limes, and used every single one of them to squeeze out the 2/3 cup of lime juice the recipe calls for. If you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, now is the time to pull it out! You’ll save yourself a lot of time (and your arm muscles a lot of strain!) in whisking both the filling and the whipped cream.

Key Lime Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1/3 of a 1-pound box graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice, or store bought

1 cup heavy or whipping cream chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

For the graham cracker crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and side of a pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

For the filling:
Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping:

Whip the cream and the confectioners' sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie into wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again: Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese

I know that I have been MIA lately. To provide full disclosure on the subject: I have honestly been much more interested in ordering pizza and watching the Olympics than lighting a fire in the kitchen. I am no avid sports fan, much to my husband’s dismay. However, I love the Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics. When I was younger I used to dance around my parents’ house pretending to be a figure skater. In fact I did it in my own house just the other night as I was demonstrating to my husband the intricacies in identifying different skating jumps. Anyone want to see a single loop jump done on carpet?

While Sundays are typically my marathon cooking days, I awoke early today and had a jam-packed day including an excellent Pilates class, an airport run, and a delicious dinner at my parents’ house. I still managed to squeak in one recipe to make some food for a dinner or two this week.

My sister first introduced me to this recipe over a year ago. She started making this for her son when he first began eating whole foods. She made it with regular gouda cheese (instead of smoked), but she sold it on me either way. This is a mac ‘n’ cheese that you can feel good about. For the record, Cooking Light states that it has 399 calories per 1 ¼ cup serving size. It is packed full of spinach and the cream sauce is made with fat-free milk. Although the recipe calls for regular macaroni pasta, I use multigrain pasta, such as Barilla Plus. The cheese adds smoky flavor to this vegetarian dish. I use breadcrumbs sparingly in this dish, and I think that they could be omitted altogether.

Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese
(From Cooking Light, March 2003)
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/3 cup (about 1 ½ ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure ½ cup.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring to a boil; cook until thick (about 2 minutes). Add cheeses; stir until melted. Add spinach and macaroni to cheese sauce, stirring until well blended.

Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seafood Season: Spaghetti with Clams

It is the time of the year when fast food chains start advertising their “fresh fish sandwich” on television commercials, and most restaurants will serve clam chowder as their soup du jour on Fridays. We also know this time as Lent. Dietarily speaking, Fridays during Lent are no different than any other day of the year for me, however we make special consideration for my husband to avoid meat. This means lots of seafood in our house, which makes us both happy.

I began making a clam and pasta recipe when I was a teenager. It was one of the recipes in my repertoire that I would cook on my own. A few years ago, I found a similar recipe by Giada de Laurentiis. We tried it, and with her alterations, we quickly let her Spaghetti with Clams take the place of our old Clam Sauce with Linguine.

The old version that I made used dried herbs and a regular onion. Giada’s use fresh parsley, lemon zest, and shallots, making it taste so bright and fresh. Her recipe calls for Manila clams, but to keep this recipe easier and more affordable, I use canned clams. If you decide to use canned clams, this recipe is pantry-friendly (most of the ingredients you can keep on-hand), and easy to make any night of the week!

Spaghetti with Clams

(Adapted from Everyday Italian)
1 pound dried spaghetti
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
5 to 7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ½ pounds Manila clams, scrubbed clean (Kate uses 2 or 3 cans (6.5 oz.) minced clams, drained)
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, zested, for garnish

In a large pot, bring to a boil 6 quarts of salted water. Add pasta, stirring constantly in the beginning to prevent it from sticking together. Cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. When almost smoking, add shallots and garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the clams and wine. Cover and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes or until most clams have opened. (If using canned clams, cook until thoroughly heated.)

Add 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Whisk in butter to thicken sauce slightly.

Drain pasta in a colander. Do not rinse pasta with water - this will remove the pasta's natural starches. Place pasta into the clam sauté pan and mix thoroughly. Check seasoning.

Pour pasta into large serving bowl. Zest lemon over the dish, being careful not to zest the white part of the lemon, which is bitter. Garnish with remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pom Figs: Dried Fig and Blue Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

The final piece to our Valentine’s dinner is a new salad that I tried. I wanted to make a salad with some dried figs, and after a bit of searching online, I found this one that also uses blue cheese (a perfect use for the gorgonzola leftover from the steak I made).

The star of this salad is the vinaigrette. The pomegranate juice is tart (and filled with antioxidants!), but the honey sweetens it up a little. You can make the vinaigrette ahead of time. Mine took a while to boil down to one-third of a cup. My husband really liked this salad!

Dried Fig and Blue Cheese Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
(Adapted from Southern Living, Christmas 2007)
Yield: 6 servings
18 dried mission figs
1 (16-oz.) bottle pomegranate juice (2 cups)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup olive oil
9 cups mesclun salad greens
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Place figs and pomegranate juice in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until figs are softened. Remove figs with a slotted spoon; set aside.

Bring pomegranate juice to a boil over medium-high heat; boil 2 minutes (Kate's took much longer) or until syrupy and reduced to 1/3 cup. Transfer reduction to a bowl; let cool to room temperature.

Add honey and next 3 ingredients to pomegranate reduction; stir with a wire whisk. Gradually whisk in oil.

To serve, divide mesclun greens among 6 serving plates; top each salad with 3 figs. Drizzle evenly with vinaigrette, and sprinkle with blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Make-Ahead Note: Cooked figs and vinaigrette can be stored in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Way to a Man's Heart: Petite Filet with Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Sauce

Today is “Fat Tuesday” and people in these parts are stuffing their faces with pączkis (pronounced "poonch-kees"). We, on the other hand, are still working on leftovers from our Valentine’s dinner. When I asked my husband if he would mind dining in, I added a steak into the equation and it sealed the deal!

I tried this steak for the first time a couple of years ago, when I made it for my husband and father. They both loved it. During the warmer months of the year my husband will just toss a steak on the grill with a little seasoning. The freezing temperatures and snow piled on top of our grill kept us inside, and this was the perfect indoor steak to make. The creamy mushroom and gorgonzola sauce make it extra special.

You can make the sauce ahead of time, and it makes a good amount. The recipe below has you only cooking one steak, but you can adjust the amount of filets for the amount of people you’re serving. The sauce should easily be enough for 4 servings. If you have leftover sauce (which I did), you can use it for another meal. I put some on a baked chicken breast for my husband to eat the next night. I also think it would be good on a baked potato.

You will want to sear your steak on a very hot pan. I used my Le Creuset 5-Quart Braiser and it browned perfectly. My husband said that the steak had a nice crust on the outside, but was perfectly medium-rare on the inside. Bring you steak up to room temperature before searing it (you do not want it to go directly from the fridge to the frying pan!). You can do this by letting the meat sit on the counter while you make your cheese sauce. On Sunday I served this with some fingerling potatoes, roasted in olive oil, sea salt, and Herbes de Provence.

Petite Filet with Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Sauce
(As seen on Everyday Italian)
Serves: 1 serving
1 (4 to 6-ounce) petite filet of beef
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms, soaked and strained
1 shallot, sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup dry white wine
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces (about 3 tablespoons) Gorgonzola cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

For the sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and the shallots and cook until golden brown and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, white wine, salt, and pepper and continue to cook until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, put the Gorgonzola, mayonnaise, and mustard in a food processor and combine until smooth. Transfer the Gorgonzola mixture to the skillet with mushrooms and shallots. Gently stir the cheese mixture into the mushroom mixture.

For the beef:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Sprinkle both sides of the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe medium skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the filet in the pan. Cook until browned on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer the steak to the oven and bake until a meat thermometer reads 130°F. for medium-rare, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the beef from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the beef and serve topped with a dollop of the cheese sauce. Reserve leftover sauce for another use.