Sunday, September 19, 2010

Basil Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

Dinner fell in to place so nicely this evening. I picked a bunch of heirloom tomatoes from the garden today - eight different varieties. So I set about to make some tomato sauce. I sautéed some onion and garlic in a pot and added a cup or so of red wine. I cooked it down until the wine was completely evaporated. Into the pot went a bit bowl of the chopped tomatoes along with some thyme, bay leaves and a few handfuls of fresh basil. Salt and pepper were added to taste. This was cooked down for about an hour and then strained through a food mill. The tomato sauce was added back to the pot and cooked down for another hour and a half until the sauce was thick, sweet and delicious.

I was trying to come up with something to make with the sauce when I spied a package of ground lamb in the freezer. Aha! Lamb ragu! I just need some pasta to go with it. Why not make some fresh pasta tonight? So I did. This is a simple pasta dough. I just threw 1 cup of semolina, 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 egg and about a half cup of water into my food processor. I wanted to flavor it up and give it a nice color so I threw in a large handful of basil leaves as well. The dough was kneaded in the processor for a few minutes and then for a minute or two by hand. This was wrapped in plastic and allowed to rest for 30 minutes. I rolled out the pasta into sheets using my pasta roller and then cut wide pappardelle noodles using my pizza cutter.

Here you can see the fresh pasta being gently simmered in a pot of hot water. Some of the green color disappeared on cooking but a subtle basil flavor remained in the pasta.

The ragu was made with some finely chopped carrots, onions and garlic in the sauté pan. The lamb was added and cooked through. The pan was deglazed with a half cup of red wine. The meat mixture was flavored with some corriander seed and dried and fresh rosemary. The tomato sauce was added and the mixture was simmered for about 40 minutes.

Once the pappardelle were cooked, they were tossed in the pan with some of the ragu to coat the noodles. About 60% of the ragu was removed from the pan prior to adding the noodles.

The pasta was plated up and topped with a good portion of more ragu and some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

This dish was SO good. Not a morsel was left!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blueberries and Arugula?

I like to mix it up with my morning breakfast smoothies and today I tried something new. It certainly pleases my palate and it might tickle your fancy too. This is a very simple smoothie - 1 cup light soy milk, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup water, 1 scoop of whey protein powder (unflavored) and a handful of fresh arugula. The greens are from my garden and are particularly peppery this time of year as the August sun starts to wane. The drink is remarkably good with a subtle hint of spicy arugula providing an undercurrent to the berries.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps

I made these tasty pork wraps and just have to share it with you all. It is really easy to make and is so delicious. Not only that, it's a nice light and healthy appetizer or meal.

For the pork filling I combined 1 pound of ground pork, half of a red onion, finely chopped, two Thai chilis, finely chopped, a couple tbsp of toasted sesame oil, a couple tbsp of rice vinegar, a couple tbsp of soy sauce and some black pepper. If I had some green onions, those would have gone in too. Oh, I also added a tbsp of minced ginger. This was simply cooked in a sauté pan until cooked through and then served in bibb lettuce leaves.

You can see I accompanied this with some shredded carrots and daikon radish. I also made a cucumber and pickled bamboo shoot salad with a little rice vinegar and mint. I found the pickled bamboo at my local Asian market. They were pickled with some small red chilis which provided more depth of flavor.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Very Berry Breakfast

I love smoothies for breakfast. I have one almost every day. It's the perfect thing after a brisk morning run. I have been playing around with different combinations of fruits, vegetables and whey protein. I stumbled on this one which is a winner. This is a Blueberry Mint and Protein smoothie. It's very simple. I used one cup of light Silk soy milk, 1 cup of blueberries, 1 scoop of protein powder and about a dozen fresh mint leaves. The mint and blueberry works so well together. It's refreshing and nutritious. Chock full of wonderful vitamins and antioxidants.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's About Sprouts

It seems I've been obsessed with sprouting things lately both in the garden and in the kitchen. I love the typical bean sprouts that you can buy in the grocery but I love even more to eat seeds that have just sprouted. I use them raw in salads or sauté them with all kinds of dishes. On the plate above are some sprouted seeds that are just a few days old. From left to right we have sprouted green peas, sprouted mung beans and sprouted brown lentils. As they get bigger they grow shoots and will grow their first leaves. I simply soak the dried seeds overnight, drain and then rinse them two to three times a day.

I used these sprouts to make an egg white scramble recently.

I cooked the sprouts with some shredded carrots, a thai chili and some dried chipotle pepper for a bit of smokiness.

After a few minutes in the hot pan I added beaten egg whites and scrambled them all up together. It was a wonderful quick and easy dinner.

You can sprout all kinds of things including many grains. In addition to those depicted above, I also love to sprout radish and kamut.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Four Courses

I was inspired reading food blogs to make a light and healthy multi-course dinner that would please the palate but not pack on the pounds. I think I succeeded.

First up: Tomato and Rhubarb Salad with Taragon

This salad exceeded all my expectations. For two servings I used one half of a tomato, chopped, and two thin stalks of celery. To this was added a couple tablespoons of fresh French tarragon - the kind that has that nice anisey bite to it. A couple tablespoons of olive oil, a splash of rice vinegar, a sprinkle of sugar, salt and pepper and that was all it took to create this salad. I served it on a bed of shredded romaine lettuce. The tarragon married beautifully with the tomato and rhubarb.

Second course: Eggplant and Tomato over Shiratake Tofu Noodles

I have fallen in love with Shiratake noodles. They are made from soybeans, have very low carbs and essentially no calories (20 per serving). I took one Asian eggplant and the other half of that tomato and stewed it up with salt, pepper and garlic. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar and finished the dish with fresh oregano.

Third course: Chicken and Herb Sausage with Sprouted Peas and Carrots

I have been experimenting with sprouts lately. One of the things I have discovered are the dried green and yellow whole peas from my local Indian market sprout beautifully. I just soak them overnight in water, drain them and then rinse the peas two or three times a day. After a few days the start to show their roots. I love them at this stage. They are not quite as sweet as a fresh pea but not as starchy as the dried peas. They are alive and the starches are being acted upon by enzymes to convert the starch to the plants food, sugar. They cook up nicely. This dish was a simple sauté of the peas, carrots and sausage. What really made the dish was the addition of dried chipotle pepper. It provided a wonderful spicy smokiness that tied it all together.

Last but not least: Spicy Garlic Shrimp and Soba

I just threw together some shrimp, garlic, commercial chili flakes in oil, salt and pepper and flash sautéed them. Just as the shrimp were about done I threw in cooked soba noodles and tossed them all together in the pan. YUMMY!

Hope you enjoyed this. You CAN make great tasting food without the fat and calories.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eggplant Curry with Tilapia and Shrimp

Hello dear cooking blog. I have to tell you about an experiment I made tonight that turned out pretty darn good. Oh, certainly there are ways to make this even better and some of them would up the calories and fat, but this was quite satisfying.

You may know that I am trying to cook light and healthy and take off some of this winter blubber. It is possible to cook healthy but still have tons of flavor. I stopped by my local Asian grocery on the way home from work and happened to find some of those small little round purple eggplants. So I grabbed some. All the way home I was trying to figure out how to make a curry without the fat. I came up with this.

For my curry paste, I made a purée of one onion, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 tbsp of ginger and a couple of thai chilis. This was simply thrown into a hot pan along with a tbsp of oil, a tbsp of curry powder, salt and pepper.

I cooked the paste down for about 5-6 minutes with constant stirring until most of the water from the onion had been cooked out and it began to brown a bit. This gives great color and flavor. You want to cook out the raw onion bitterness. This paste will help thicken my sauce. If I had thought ahead, I would have also thrown in a couple of the raw shrimp into the purée. This would have added another level of flavor to the overall dish. This is a great trick to do in dishes where you want the flavor of ingredients that you really don't want to stew for a long time.

Once the paste was cooked out I added a cup of water and 6 small eggplants cut into quarters.

The eggplant and sauce mixture was cooked covered for about 15 minutes until the eggplant became very tender and the sauce thickened a bit. About 3 oz of tilapia and 4 oz of peeled raw shrimp were added to the pan. This was covered and cooked for just a few minutes until the seafood was cooked through.

I think the dish turned out great. You could make this even better if instead of water added to the cooked paste you added a can of coconut milk! I thought about it but I didn't want the added fat tonight. That would take this dish over the top! If I do this again I would also add some fresh curry leaves when I throw in the eggplant and finish it off with some fresh cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime. Oh, some Thai basil would be a great last minute addition too.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wasabi Sesame-Crusted Tuna

Here's a quick dish I threw together. It's easy and so tasty. I marinated two 8 oz tuna steaks with a marinade made of a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a teaspoon of sesame oil and a teaspoon of prepared wasabi paste. The fish was marinated for 15 minutes. I pressed the tuna steaks into a bowl of sesame seeds and pan seared it for about 2 minutes on a side in a bit of olive oil. It was tasty and delicious! I served it with quinoa and green beans.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chicken Satay

Finally we come to the end of our New Year's Eve feast. We'll finish in Thailand with some chicken satay. I marinated some thinly sliced chicken breast in yogurt seasoned with curry powder, turmeric, garlic and ginger for about 5 hours. The chicken was skewered and cooked in my grill pan. I served it with a Thai peanut sauce made from creamy peanut butter, soy, sesame oil, sriracha chili oil, rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar and some water.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Potato Jalapeño Poppers

Admit it. You love those fried jalapeño poppers you get at your local sports bar battered, fried and oozing with cheese. I didn't make those for New Year's Eve. Instead I created a potato bite spiced with jalapeño peppers. I made a dipping sauce with some yogurt, mayo and a splash of sriracha chili sauce.

How did I make them? Well, it all started with six large potatoes. I used yukon gold potatoes and boiled them just until fork tender. I didn't want them too soft. I let them cool and then passed them through my ricer. These went into the fridge to be well chilled. When it came time to make the poppers I mixed in some finely diced jalapeño peppers, salt, pepper, a couple of beaten eggs and a couple tablespoons of flour. The mixture was rolled into 1 inch balls, coated with bread crumbs and deep fried in hot oil (375 F) until golden brown.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad

Chicken salad spiced with Indian flavors were a hit on New Year's Eve. I started by poaching some boneless skinless chicken breasts in salted water just until cooked. This was diced up with some celery and carrots. Walnuts and dried cranberries were added. I made a homemade curry powder with cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder, asafoetida and salt. This with a little bit of mayo was the dressing. I served it in bite-sized portions wrapped with romaine lettuce leaves.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cheese and Crackers

You can't have a New Year's Eve party without cheese and crackers. No easy cheese on ritz crackers here. I found some very nice cheeses from my local market and paired them with some not so plain crackers. My favorites were the triple cream St. Andre and the Humboldt Fog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Garlic Shrimp

Here's an other classic Spanish tapas that I served on New Year's Eve. It couldn't get simpler. I just heated some olive oil in a pan, added some red pepper flakes and lots of chopped garlic. This was cooked for just a few seconds and the shrimp was tossed in. It only takes a couple of minutes of stir frying to cook the shrimp through. Near the end I squeezed a lemon over the shrimp and plated it up. It is important NOT to skimp on the olive oil. Use a good amount so you'll have a little bit of heaven to dip your crusty bread into.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chipotle Spiced Almonds

I was in the tapas mood so I made some Spanish inspired dishes for New Year's Eve. These snacks are reminiscent of some Spanish spiced almonds I once had at a tapas bar. These were crazy easy to make. I started by toasting some cumin and coriander seeds. These were ground and mixed with some coarse salt, sugar, paprika and wonderfully smoky chipotle pepper powder. The almonds were baked for 1o minutes in a 400 degree oven then mixed with a bit of olive oil and the spices and roasted for another 10 minutes. See! Easy as spiced almonds!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sushi

On New Year's Eve I hosted some friends for an evening of appetizers and drinks. Over the next few days I'll be posting some of the items I made throughout that night. I love to celebrate the diversity of cuisines on New Year's Eve so let's go to Asia. Well, sort of. I've never had this particular combination in Japan but my guests really enjoyed this East meets Pacific Northwest sushi roll. I used Korean rice and cooked it with some konbu (kombu - seaweed). The rice was seasoned with rice vinegar and sugar. I used strips of smoked salmon and cream cheese. The combination was fantastic. The flavor of the salmon permeated your mouth and the cheese provided a wonderful creamy texture. I'll definitely make this again.