Sunday, January 31, 2010

Irish Car Bombs: Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes

We have returned from our third annual ski trip. Three years ago was my first time strapping on skis, and defying everyone’s expectations – I loved it! I made my way through the green circles and enjoyed almost every minute! Last year, skiing in sub-zero temperatures, I accomplished my goal of skiing on the blue squares, and actually completed every blue trail at the resort. My 2010 goal: Black Diamond. I am pleased to report that I can now check that box. Sandwiched between my brother-in-law paving the way ahead of me, and my husband trailing behind me, I made it down a few times without any major spills, and all in one piece. The other skiers on that trail could certainly tell that I didn’t belong in their league, but with a proud grin I was the one pumping my fists at the bottom of the hill!

We had a great time with my sister and brother-in-law, and while we had some good food for most of the weekend, I had undoubtedly the worst pizza in my life last night for dinner. Seriously, how do you mess up pizza? (And I only ordered it after the waitress unwaveringly recommended it!) We made it back home today with time for me to make some warm Cioppino and a post-birthday treat for my husband to take to work tomorrow. Remember the days of bringing cupcakes to school for your birthday? This is the adult version.

While I’ve never had one myself, I’ve seen plenty of Irish Car Bombs enjoyed by others. It’s a drink where Irish whiskey is floated on the top of Irish Cream in a shot class and then dropped directly into a pint glass of stout. The drink is then consumed immediately before the ingredients curdle.

These cupcakes use the ingredients of an Irish Car Bomb, and are extremely delicious! I made these cupcakes last summer and sent them to work with my husband before we consumed them entirely ourselves. There were a huge hit at his office, and I received requests to share the recipe and send more! The Guinness gets baked out, but the Bailey’s and Whiskey do not. If you’re serving for people who cannot/do not consume alcohol, you can omit the Whiskey from the ganache and substitute milk or heavy cream for the Bailey’s. You can simply spread the frosting on the top of the cupcakes, or you can use a star tip with a piping bag to create a fun design. These are rich enough as is, but you can also decorate with colored sugar/sprinkles, or chocolate shavings.

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes:
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons Irish whiskey

Bailey’s Frosting: (you may want to double this)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (Kate uses a plastic bag with the corner snipped off)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and ¾ teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to ¾ of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

His Birthday: Pollo Parmigiana (Breaded Chicken Breast with Parmesan)

I would like to wish my amazing husband a very happy birthday! We both have long work days ahead of us, and he has class in the evening, but we’re going to steal a quick hour in between for an elegant dinner together.

Chicken Parmesan is one of his favorite foods. He’ll order it out, and I’ll make it occasionally. I’ve tried a few different recipes over the years, and while I don't make Chicken Parmesan frequently, I try to make it each year around his birthday. Last week I tried one from my new Main Street Ventures cookbook. My husband loved it, and it may have been one of his favorites.

I have the recipe listed below as it is in the book, however I’d like to point out that the recipe for the tomato basil sauce makes much more than you need. If you’re not looking for leftover sauce, I’d cut what is listed below into a third. (Or, you can always freeze the remaining sauce in two-cup portions.)

Happy Birthday, Old Man Sweetheart!

Pollo Parmigiana (Breaded Chicken Breast with Parmesan)
(From Mainstreet Ventures Distinctive Recipes)
1 egg
¼ cup milk
¼ cup flour
3 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 Tbs. garlic, minced
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped
4 (5 oz.) skinless, boneless chicken breast
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

Cooking and assembling the chicken
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups Tomato Basil Sauce (see recipe below)
½ lb. Spaghetti, cooked al dente
4 slices mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, grated
4 fresh basil leaves, as garnish

Heat oven to 400°F.

In a large mixing bowl combine the bread crumbs, garlic, Parmesan, basil, oregano, and parsley, and mix well. Set aside. In a separate bowl beat the egg with the milk. Set aside. In another bowl add the flour and set aside. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Dust the chicken breast lightly in flour, then dip in egg wash. Coat the chicken breast on both sides with breading and press lightly with hand to adhere. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté on each side for approximately 3 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove the chicken from the heat and place on a baking sheet. Top with mozzarella slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven for 2 minutes or until cheese melts and chicken is cooked.

In a large sauce pan, heat the Tomato Basil Sauce along with spaghetti. Transfer the spaghetti with tongs to individual plates and top each with a chicken breast.

Sugo di Pomodore (Tomato Basil Sauce)
(Makes 2 Quarts)
3 (24 oz.) cans chopped tomatoes (recipe recommends Hunts)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium size garlic cloves
1/3 cup tomato puree
2 cups fresh basil leaves, loosely packed, coarsely chopped
1 ½ Tbs. coarse salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. honey or pinch of sugar (optional)

In a food processor or blender, puree the olive oil and garlic. Pour mixture into a medium size sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Stir in chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in honey and fresh basil. Makes about 10 cups.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vegetarian Umami: Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy Béchamel

There are many different kinds of vegetarian lasagna. Some have a white sauce; some have marinara. Some have spinach and ricotta; some have roasted vegetables. I think it’s rare to find mushroom lasagna, which is unfortunate because it is so delicious!

I have been making this recipe for many years. It is a perfect entrée for vegetarians to enjoy, and one that is so hearty the meat-eaters won’t miss the meat. This lasagna is perfect to serve for a dinner party. You can even make it a day ahead, and then heat it up before your guests arrive (like a good soup, lasagna is better the next day!). I’ll make this for me and my husband and it will last us the week. Or we’ll freeze individual serving sizes to warm up and enjoy another day. It pairs perfectly with a light salad.

The mushrooms create an earthy and savory flavor (Umami, anyone?), and the Béchamel is light and creamy. If you can purchase your mushrooms pre-sliced, you will save a lot of time. If you can’t, it’s still worth the time to slice all of the mushrooms! I’m normally the type of cook who will multitask in the kitchen and have several pots going at once. If you haven’t made a Béchamel sauce before, I recommend giving it your full attention. If you’re not constantly stirring, your flour may clump, and if you turn your back for one minute, your milk might burn.

Mushroom Lasagna with Creamy Béchamel
(From Cooking Light, April, 2004)
Mushroom filling:
2 cups boiling water
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 1 ½ pounds)
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms (about ½ pound)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup Côtes du Rhône or other fruity red wine
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or ¾ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Remaining ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 (8-ounce) package precooked lasagna noodles
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

To prepare filling, combine water and porcini in a small bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Drain porcini through a sieve over a bowl, squeezing porcini to extract liquid. Reserve 1 ½ cups liquid; discard remaining liquid. Rinse porcini, and drain. Chop coarsely; set aside.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Stir in porcini, wine, and soy sauce. Cook 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and rosemary. Add the reserved porcini liquid; bring to a simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced to ¾ cup (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper.

To prepare béchamel, place milk in a 4-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until hot, stirring after 2 minutes. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring with a whisk, and cook 1 minute or until bubbly, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a simmer; cook over low heat 8 minutes or until sauce slightly thickens, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and stir in ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread ½ cup béchamel in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over béchamel; top with ½ cup béchamel. Top with 1 cup mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with ¼ cup cheese. Repeat layers three times (dish will be very full). Cover with foil; place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Uncover lasagna; bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Busy Weekend, Easy Dinner: Angel Hair with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

It’s been a busy weekend. I feel as though I’ve been having a lot of those lately, but it is the honest truth. Long weeks; busy weekends. We enjoyed Friday night with some friends playing board games by candlelight. The tradition started last spring when we had these friends over to our place for dinner, the same night as Earth Hour. As recommended, we powered down in our house, and lit an array of candles while we played board games. After the prescribed time was up, we didn't want to turn the lights back on. It was so much fun that we’ll never be able to turn back now!

On Saturday I ran errands and tried to start a mushroom lasagna before attending an awards ceremony, as I was being recognized as the nominator of an award recipient. Today we labored away working on cleaning out my mother-in-law’s old home. The task was enormous, and I am so grateful to my wonderful family for stepping up to help without hesitation. My mother prepared a delicious spread for when we were ready to break for lunch. The men ate ham sandwiches, while I enjoyed her egg salad. For dessert we had homemade chocolate chip cookies and pumpkin rice pudding (which she appropriately added chocolate too – we do love that combination). We made a good dent (with the food and the house), but our work is yet to be done.

At the end of the day, my husband and I returned home entirely exhausted, and much in need of a homemade meal. My lasagna was waiting to be finished, but we couldn’t curb our hunger long enough for that to be completed. I went to my go-to recipe for when I want a quickly made meal from scratch, using pantry ingredients. I’ve made this many times and it never disappoints. I keep all of these ingredients in my pantry, and always have some goat cheese on hand (it has a very long refrigerator life for a cheese!). If I don’t have any Italian parsley, I’ll just omit it, even thought it adds some nice contrasting color to the pasta.

You may have noticed that tomato paste is one of my favorite ingredients, and I’ll jump at any opportunity to cook with it. The intensity of the tomato paste, the sweetness of the sun-dried tomatoes, and the tanginess of the goat cheese make this a delicious pasta. The goat cheese also adds a creamy texture. You can use any kind of pasta, but I like using angel hair with this recipe because it cooks so quickly. On different occasions, I’ve added chicken, shrimp, scallops, or lump crab to this pasta to add some protein. I also think a fillet of grilled swordfish would be delicious served with it!

Angel Hair with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
(Adapted from Everyday Pasta)
1 (8.5 oz.) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped (oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (preferably with Italian seasoning)
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound angel hair pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
5 oz. soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped


Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding some reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and parsley and stir. Mound the pasta into bowls and serve.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everything But The Kitchen Sink: Honey Barbecued Salmon

I’m in the middle of another busy week and am still recovering from my baking mishap last week. While my newest batch of chocolate crunch granola bakes in the oven, I’m going to take a few minutes to type up a lengthy recipe that I tried a few weeks ago.

The Main Street Ventures restaurants have their own cookbook on display in a number of restaurants we’ve been frequenting for many years. It is a collection of gourmet recipes from their prized restaurants across the country. I’ve been eyeing the cookbook for quite sometime, but for some reason I never purchased it.

In December my husband and I joined our very good friends (and their darling baby girl) for a fabulous birthday dinner where they generously gave me this cookbook (along and a lovely bottle of wine). Some of our favorite dishes from the restaurants are in this cookbook, and the photographs of the food are beautiful. I’ve already attempted a couple recipes from the book, and the first one that I tried was their Honey Barbecued Salmon.

The ingredient list is lengthy and the recipe has you throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the barbecue sauce. At first it seems like overkill, but all of these ingredients meld into a deliciously sweet and spicy glaze. Mine was particularly spicy, as I used the entire jalapeño. (I recommend only using the jalapeño flesh and discarding the membrane and seeds if you don’t want it too spicy. If you are sensitive to hot peppers, you should also use rubber gloves when handling them). Since it is the middle of winter and our ground outside is still white, I followed their instructions to bake then broil the salmon. As soon as it warms up we’re going to try this on the grill! If you don’t like salmon, try the sauce with with chicken!

Honey Barbecued Salmon

(From Mainstreet Ventures Distinctive Recipes)
For Salmon:
1 ½ lb. Salmon filet, boneless and skinless
1 ½ cup Honey Barbeque Sauce (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Cut salmon filet into 4 equal pieces. Place parchment paper on a 9x12 inch baking sheet pan. Brush both sides of each salmon piece with barbecue sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven for 6 minutes, then switch oven dial to broil and cook salmon for 3 more minutes until salmon just flakes.

Brush lightly with sauce prior to serving. Transfer the salmon onto plates and serve with more sauce, if desire.

For Honey Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1 cup honey
¼ cup coarse-grained mustard
¼ cup Jalapeño pepper, minced
2/ Tbs. rice vinegar
½ tsp. Tabasco
3 Tbs. light brown sugar
1 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. sweet paprika
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. ground black pepper

In a heavy saucepan, stir together sauce and dry ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Sauce will keep for one week covered and chilled.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

They Can’t All Be Gems: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread AGAIN

Last Thursday I started out the day waking up late, but I got ready at record speed, and even had extra time to spend styling my hair. I flew threw every all green lights on the way to work. It was sunny and I had no traffic. I turned my iPod onto the shuffle setting and the perfect song came on. Just as I was pulling into my parking structure, a car that was parked in the best spot was pulling out. Jack pot! I even ended up making it to work early!

At some point during the day my luck turned.

Earlier in the week I had been notified of a breakfast party my office would be joining another department for. It was encouraged for people to bring a food item to share, and as the other office is a team of practically professional bakers, I had to bring something.

I thought all week about what I should make, and tried to figure out how I’d find the time to make something (I’ve been working long and stressful days with 3 meals a day eaten behind my desk and in front of my computer). I made a successful effort to leave work by 6:00 pm to allow myself enough time to stop by the store and make my dish. It took trips to two different grocery stores to acquire all of the ingredients necessary for the frittatas I was planning to make. When I arrived home I made a fabulous recipe for mini egg frittatas with sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed shallots and garlic, smoked mozzarella, Asiago cheese, and fresh basil.

Having left work “early”, I retreated to my laptop in another room while they were in the oven. I should mention that I’ve had a sinus-thing for two weeks and my normally keen sense of smell has abandoned me. While I was typing away at emails, I failed to smell my mini frittatas burning in the kitchen. I can’t believe that I let that happened! I pulled them out of the oven, and while my husband and I may have bit the bullet and eaten them ourselves, being the perfectionist that I am, I could not serve them to my colleagues! They sadly went directly into the trash.

I checked the clock – it was past 10:00 pm! I did not have enough of the ingredients to remake the frittatas. We do not live near any grocery stores and I had already had a glass of wine, so getting to the store was out of question. To top it off, my husband was out of town on business, and if he had been home, he would have lovingly gone to any grocery store to fetch whatever ingredients I needed. I did not want to show up to this breakfast gathering empty handed!

I began flipping through my cookbook while surveying what I had in my refrigerator and pantry. I had a couple eggs, a can of pumpkin puree that hadn’t yet expired, and barely enough sugar. I could make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread! I pulled out my stand mixer and got going, but unfortunately it had to bake for over an hour. When I pulled it out of the oven I didn’t let it rest long enough (as I was longing to get to bed for an early start for the next day!). As I attempted to put it on a cooling rack, the loaf split in two! I salvaged it with some fancy slicing and headed to bed with only a few hours left before my alarm would hopefully wake me up.

I somehow rose early enough on Friday morning to make it to the gathering with my Pumpkin Bread. When I went to retrieve my plate at the end of the day, all but one slice were gone!

Recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

This went in . . .

. . . and this came out.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Straying from Standard Sides: Sautéed Green Beans & Mushrooms, and Glazed Carrots with Pecans

I took my Christmas tree down while it was still December, but I have yet to finish posting recipes from my Christmas dinner! I’ll finish it off tonight with two sides that I tried. I strayed a bit from traditional sides dishes (think green bean casserole and candied yams), and tried healthier replicas.

For the green beans, I sautéed them in olive oil (versus the traditional casserole recipe that calls for a can of creamy soup). I topped mine with almonds, although you could swap out the almonds and garnish with some French-fried onions, which would be more like the standard version. Instead of baking yams with spices and topping them with pecans and marshmallows, I cooked some carrots with similar spices, and they had the flavor of a pumpkin pie!

Both side dishes were enjoyed by all of us, and also didn’t require any time in the oven. (Oven time is something I’ve learned you have to carefully plan for when you’re turning out multiple dishes and you only have one oven!)

Sautéed Green Beans & Mushrooms
24 oz. frozen green beans, preferably thin French style beans (Kate used Trader Joe's Haricot Verts)
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and a mushrooms and stir until mushrooms begin to slightly brown. Add green beans, 2 tablespoons of water, and cover. Steam until tender. Season with salt and pepper, top with sliced almonds and serve.

Glazed Carrots with Pecans

(Adapted from Sunset, November, 2009)
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups diagonally sliced (1/4 in.) peeled carrots
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cups toasted pecan halves

Heat oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook, stirring frequently, 6 minutes. Stir in spices and sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Add pecans and cook until carrots are tender when pierced and mixture is glazed in sugar, 5-10 minutes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Time of Need

Today I leave you with no recipe, but a request that you’ll join me in donating to the relief efforts in Haiti. Please make a donation to the American Red Cross, or a charity of your choice. If you do not have the means to donate, please offer prayers for the people of Haiti and the rescue workers who are coming to their aid.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shrimp Suggestion: Lemon Spaghetti with Shrimp

Just a couple of hours ago, my friend Dana posted a comment on the blog that she had tried a couple of my recipes. She mentioned that she couldn’t get enough of the Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta with Basil, and that she had also added some shrimp to it. Her comment made me think of a similar dish that I like to add shrimp to myself! (And thanks, Dana, great suggestion!)

This recipe for Lemon Spaghetti is so easy and so delicious. It works well as an entrée, particularly with the addition of some cooked shrimp, chicken, or scallops. It also works as a great accompaniment. You can serve it hot, or at room temperature, and you can also have fun trying different shapes of pasta.

The original version of this recipe is from Giada de LaurentiisEveryday Italian, however a few years ago I started adding Trader Joe’s Colossal Butterfield Shrimp marinated in garlic and herbs (found in their frozen section), and never looked back! The TJ’s shrimp are flavored perfectly for this dish, and all you have to do is put the frozen shrimp under the broiler for a few minutes, and then they pop right out of their shells. This comes together quickly with little hassle, so it's perfect for a night that you want a homemade meal but don't really feel like cooking.

And while this has nothing to do with cooking, I'd like to mention a very cool blog I have recently stumbled upon. 365 days. 365 items of clothing. 365 dollars. (Plus "before" and "after" photos.) Marisa over at New Dress A Day has a lot of creativity and can really work a sewing machine!

Lemon Spaghetti with Shrimp
(Adapted from Everyday Italian)
1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ - 1 pound cooked shrimp

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Toss with lemon zest, shrimp, and chopped basil.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

San Fran Stew: Cioppino

A couple of years ago my husband and I were watching a Food Network special that spoke about the history of Cioppino (pronounced “chuh-pee-noh”). This fish stew has an interesting origin, as it was developed by Italian fishermen in San Francisco in the late 1800's. The fishermen would all “chip in” their catch of the day to a collective soup pot to create seafood stew, similar to a French bouillabaisse (less the saffron).

My husband orders Cioppino occasionally when we dine at seafood restaurants. Most recently, we shared some with our friend Sarah while dining at Beretta in San Francisco.

I had been intending to make Cioppino at home, but had not taken the time to sort through different recipes. I was delighted to find a Cioppino recipe while I was flipping through my new copy of Ellie Krieger’s So Easy. I flagged the page, bought my seafood (and for such a steal at Trader Joe’s! ), and made this over the weekend to get us through a few dinners this week.

It smelled delicious while it was cooking, it was ridiculously easy to make, and my husband loved it. It wasn’t even mealtime when I finished it (we were somewhere between lunch and dinner), and I had to stop him from eating a whole bowl. He actually said to me, “Kate, I love everything that you cook. But I haven’t been this surprised by something you’ve made since you made Chicken Scallopine with Saffron Cream Sauce for the first time.” (And that was two years ago!) Needless to say, this Cioppino is making it into the regular rotation! I actually can’t wait until we’ve eaten it all up so that I can make it again!

(Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s So Easy)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (6 oz.) jar tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 (14.5 oz.) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1 cup fish stock or water
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
½ - 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (you may want to remove the tails, too)
½ - 1 pound scallops
½ - 1 pound skinless halibut fillet, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Fresh bread for serving

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, an additional 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices and the fish stock (or water) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, for 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, salt, and pepper. (This base may be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Heat the soup base to a boil. Add the shrimp, scallops, and halibut. Reduce the heat and simmer, until everything is just cooked, about 5 minutes. Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with the parsley. Serve with bread.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Check Out Quinoa: Quinoa with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

We had a great weekend hosting our cousins who were in town for a post-holiday visit. These newlyweds were unable to make it for Christmas, as the snowy roads weren’t safe for them to drive here. But they had a whirlwind weekend trying to stop by and visit with every family member who was available. We were lucky enough to have them overnight, which meant we went out for a great Creole dinner on Saturday (followed by some live Irish music at a nearby pub), and had a homemade brunch on Sunday morning.

My sister and her family joined us for brunch and I made one of our cousins’ favorites, and my mom provided some pumpkin bread for us to serve them. While the men tinkered outside with an unfortunate flat tire, the women sipped mimosas inside and looked after the kids. (My nephew is always entertained at his “Auntie” and “Unc”’s house with our one and only "toy", the “Big Red Ball”.)

Prior to our guests arriving on Saturday, I spent the day stocking up on the necessary groceries. While in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s (home of ever-friendly employees), my cashier commented on the quinoa I was buying like it was being discontinued in bulk. She mentioned that she liked quinoa but didn’t know what to do with it. I started rattling off several recipe ideas, and as her eyes widened, I tore off some paper from my grocery list, and scribbled down the URL for my blog. This is one of the recipes I mentioned to her, and while I made it a week ago, in the event that she is joining us here online looking for ways to use her quinoa, I must deliver!

I love tomatoes (in any form) and quinoa. I recently did a search for some ideas of how to incorporate sun-dried tomatoes, and found a recipe which I then slightly adapted. This is delicious, and also has a spicy kick! (You could avoid the spice by substituting the Jalapeño with a green bell pepper, and omitting the cayenne.)

Quinoa with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(Adapted from Lisa's Kitchen)
1 cup of quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 large Jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 cup of corn
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. When hot, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and Jalapeño to the pot, and stir cook for 4-5 minutes.

Add spices, corn, quinoa, and vegetable sock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

Add parsley and Parmigiano Reggiano, stir, and serve.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Love Me Tenderloin: Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub

Last weekend my husband accompanied me on a grocery run. While I perused the fresh vegetables he found himself a pork tenderloin and told me that he really wanted me to make one. During the 15 years of my life that I ate meat, I don’t recall ever eating pork tenderloin, and subsequently have nothing to reference it too. My husband, however, gets to enjoy it frequently at my sister’s house. She has a killer pork tenderloin recipe that my husband just loves. While I was prepared to use her recipe for this experiment, my husband told me he was craving a pork tenderloin with a crust. My sister’s recipe uses a glaze, so I did a quick search and made an adaptation of Ellie Krieger’s pork tenderloin with a seasoned rub.

Making this recipe was a joint effort. My husband took care of the pork, while I did all of the ingredient prep work and made the pan sauce. He loved this pork recipe. It cooked perfectly, and while the pork was moist and pan sauce wasn’t needed, it was a nice touch. I served this for him with some broccoli and fingerling potatoes. (After removing the pan sauce from the skillet, I added some olive oil and butter to the pan, sautéed the fingerling potatoes, and then finished them off with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.) I think we will have to try my sister’s glaze recipe sometime, but this one is definitely a keeper!

Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub

(Adapted from Ellie Krieger)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
For Pan Sauce:
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In separate bowl mix dry ingredients such as garlic powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, thyme and salt. Stir mixture with a fork until all the ingredients are well combined and they form a seasoning. This will be used as a rub to ensure the pork is well seasoned throughout. Sprinkle the rub over the tenderloin with a dry hand, then rub the pork with the seasoning over both sides of the meat, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and heat. Add the garlic cloves and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Put tenderloin in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, searing each side using tongs to turn the meat. (When garlic cloves begin to burn, remove immediately from pan.) Transfer meat to a roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, keep the skillet over medium-high heat and deglaze the pan with the white wine and chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in Dijon mustard, and allow sauce to simmer for 5 minutes. When pork is done cooking, add any remaining juices from roasting pad to sauce.

Slice pork and serve. Drizzle with pan sauce, if desired.