Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Fava Beans

Warning: Don't try this at home.

New ingredient (never tasted or cooked by me) for the week was fava beans. I saw them on sale for 99 cents a pound and bought about a pound and a half, thinking that would be plenty. These suckers were big, probably 8 inches long and plump too. I thought such gargantuan pods would yield a large plate of tasty beans. Wrong.

So here's how to prepare the fresh fava beans at home (I already warned you, don't try). First shell the beans (see above). Blanch the beans for 3 minutes, and dump in an ice bath. THEN, shell the beans AGAIN (see below). They have a lining that is tough and inedible, so they need the second shucking. Take the remaining little tiny amount of beans (i got 1/4 cup from my batch) and do with them what you wish.

They might be nice in a salad mixed with tomatoes and onions. I saw a recipe for green risotto made with blended fava beans. I decided not to fuss too much with my whole handful of beans. I added some bacon bits (I cooked that for my fritatta tonight), salt, pepper and parmesan.

Alright, so they were good. Would I do it again? Heck, no! Unless you have a little army of 10 year olds willing to do your dirty work, just leave it to the professionals and order it next time you see it on a menu.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sauteed Radishes

This is more of an idea than a recipe. I found beautiful radishes at the market this morning and remember reading that they are quite tasty when cooked. Here is the result and it was yummy and unique. I love the zing and bite of a raw radish, but this brought a mellow and nutty subtle flavor that reminds you that they are root vegetables too.

2 bunches of radishes quartered
1 T. unsalted butter
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a saute pan, heat the butter and oil until piping hot. Add the radishes and let them sit for at least 2 minutes to get them browned. Stir and let sit another couple minutes. Take off the heat and give it a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

I would totally make this again as a side to any dish. I served them this time with my favorite White Turkey Chili. Oh, and I have to give props to my new favorite blog for crockpot cooking. It's called A Year of Crockpotting. Stephanie, aka "The Crockpot Lady" posts a new recipe every day and the commentary is pretty darn hilarious.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Curry Chicken Salad Wrap

Tasty lunch today, using veggies starting to wilt and pantry chicken. This is entirely influenced by the Piadini that we always order at Tomatina in Walnut Creek. (Theirs is a salad on flatbread which is smeared with roasted garlic paste - OMG). And although this lacks the homemade rustic breadiness, I felt like I would actually pay cold hard cash for a lunch like this. It was simple yet satisfying and a thumbs up from the tall man living here. Here are the ingredients below:

Chopped veggies or fruit (I used yellow bells, cucumbers and cranberries), can o' chicken, 1/2 tsp. curry, 3 T. light mayo. Apples, grapes, red onions or walnuts would make a great addition. This is another one of those "use what you have" type of recipes.

So, mix it all up. Heat a tortilla on the gas burner until hot, add some greens and top with the chicken salad. You can either roll it or fold in half to eat. It beats a PB&J by a mile.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Filo Fun

Leftover filo dough from previous night + leftover grilled asparagus + last of the goat cheese = yummy snacky thingy.

With only a few ingredients I made this cute little appetizer AND used up my leftovers. It's all about efficiency, folks. Especially now with the state of affairs, rice will be like $10 a pound or something like that. If you haven't stocked up on rice, go to the grocery store now and fill up your cart. Seriously.

Anyways, I took one sheet of filo and put a bit of leftover asparagus, goat cheese and lemon zest in one corner. Then you just fold it over and over into special triangular shape until you run out of dough. It was kind of heavy on the filo, so maybe a half sheet would have been sufficient. Baked at 350 until golden (15-20 min). I ate one really hot and the other at room temperature. I suggest the latter.

Strawberry Rhubarb Filo Flowers

What an odd sensation... when I'm going through the grocery store now, I think not only about feeding my family, but also about what new ingredient will I use this week for my blog. I think about what would look scrumptious on a plate, about presentation, colors and garnishes. I think about how the light is that day and if it will be sufficient for a photograph. You didn't know I cared so much about pleasing you, did you?

Growing up, for all the holidays there were 3 type of pies: pumpkin, cherry, pecan. Later on, sometimes we would throw in an apple or the ever popular but labor intensive lemon merengue. There was no banana cream pie, no berry pie, no key lime pie, no chess pie, no mincemeat, no chocolate cream pie and certainly no strawberry-rhubarb. Honestly, I would have not thought of the combo unless I was really looking through my produce aisle for something different.

This dish will qualify as two new ingredients: rhubarb and filo. I bought the filo without really knowing what I was going to do with it. I knew it was versatile (savory or sweet) and tricky to work with. For me, it wasn't so bad. The flower cups were quite easy actually, just fragile. You couldn't pick the flower up and eat the dessert, it was a spoon adventure for sure.

Strawberry Rhubarb Filo Flowers

For the topping:
2 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. orange zest
Saute the rhubarb with sugar for about 7 minutes, turn off heat and add strawberries and zest. It might be a good idea to thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch. I didn't do that, but it would have been better and less juicy/messy.

For the filling:
1 package cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
zest of one lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar (or more to taste)

Wisk together until very smooth and keep in the fridge until ready to assemble.

For the filo flowers:

Take out 6 sheets of filo, and cut in half lengthwise and then in thirds from there. You should get 6 smaller squares from one sheet. Put them in a pile and cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Invert a muffin tin and spray with Pam. Lay a sqare over the inverted muffin cup and then stagger the next so that it forms points. In between every two sheets, give it a spray. If you want more flavor, use melted butter in between layers (too much work for me). Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. You may have to do this on every other muffin cup, so they don't overlap and stick together.

Assembly: You really should have figured this out, but I will insult your intelligence anyways. Put a couple tablespoons of cream cheese mixture in the filo cup and top with the fruit mixture.

This tart and sweet dessert was a hit with everyone. I heard the word "fancypants" being thrown around, so maybe it seemed more gourmet than it actually was. Who knows, maybe I will try a souffle soon....or not!

Monday, April 21, 2008

African Lentil Soup

I'll take "Spices" for $800, Alex. On this continent you would find a spice blend of cinnamon, tumeric, ginger, and cumin all together in one soup.

What is "Africa"?

After looking at several recipes for lentil soups, I decided to take a few ingredients from something called "Moroccan Stew" and "African Chicken Soup" to make our dinner tonight. After being away for the past 4 days (I wish it was on vacation, but thats a whole other story), I found that most of the veggies in the fridge went south on me. I had carrots and an onion left.

Here is what I came up with and it was totally yummy. My two year old even begged me for a taste. I thought it might be a little too spicy for him, but he came back for several more bites. Scott also raved about it, said he liked the spice combo and asked if it was healthy. Indeed!

African Lentil Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 chopped onion
3 carrots chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
6 cups water or veggie broth
1 cup lentils (rinsed)
1/2 cup orzo or other small pasta
2T creamy peanut butter

Saute the onions and carrots until starting to turn soft, about 7 minutes. Add all the spices and drained tomatoes (save the juice) and saute for another 5 minutes, stirring often. Dump in the broth, reserved tomato juice, cilantro and lentils. Simmer with the lid on for 2 hours. Remove lid, add orzo, cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter until melted. You can eat it like that or thicken it up by stirring with a stick blender for a few seconds. Squeeze in a little lemon juice if you like the tang.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worms in Dirt

Had to post these cuties! Having a birthday party for Wes tomorrow with a "Camp Out" theme...I can't wait to see all the 2 year olds playing in the tent and "fishing" in the pond.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jicama Orange Salad

If you've never tried the sweet crunch of a jicama, now is the time. In the produce aisle, you'd never guess what lurks underneath it's dingy brown skin (it almost looks like a big turnip). But get it home and peel it, you will find a wonderful and healthy snack. Most times I just like to chop it up into sticks the size of baby carrots and keep it in the fridge for snacking raw.

This time, I decided on a light and fresh salad, dressed with the juice of oranges, cilantro, cumin and cayenne for a hint of Latin spice.

Jicama Orange Salad

1 small jicama, julienned
1 small avocado, chopped
2 navel oranges, supremed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup orange juice
1 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. canola oil
1/4 t. cumin
dash cayenne
salt to taste

Mix first four ingredients. Mix the rest in a bowl and drizzle over the salad.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Regular Dinners

Sometimes I just go through a creative slump, where looking for recipes, shopping, cooking and cleaning up just isn't happening. This is one of those weeks, for sure. I think we even had pizza on two different nights.

My "Regular Dinner" is usually some kind of chicken and a veggie or two. This week it was sliced BBQ chicken on top of mashed potatoes with a salad....and Teriyaki Chicken with grilled asparagus. Oh, and regular dinners are *always* served on our festive plastic plates leftover from my brother's wedding rehearsal dinner (where they served made-to-order tacos and lots of margaritas....yum!)

Do you have a "regular dinner"? What is it?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Forget Starbucks

My friend Kim sent me this article from Mmmmm....turd coffee!

"At Gadling we are pretty crazy about odd and bizarre foods. We've already written about Indonesian turd coffee, a byproduct of wild civets, but today the good news is that you don't have to travel all the way to Southeast Asia to get it. To get your morning cup of turd coffee, make your way to London instead.

Peter Jones, a department store in Sloane Square, is selling a gourmet coffee blend made from animal dung and selling it at £50 a cup; that's almost $100! Caffe Raro, which is thought to be the most expensive coffee in the world, is a made from a blend of Jamaican Blue Mountain and Kopi Luwak beans. The Kopi Luwak beans are eaten by the Asian palm civet, and once passed through their system, collected and sold for a little under $650 per kilogram. Don't worry -- they're washed before they are roasted."


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Grilled Radicchio with Pecans and Chevre

This was my lunch today. I ate every last bit, so I think it was a success. It will also take care of my "new ingredient for the week", a concept that I am trying to uphold by using an ingredient that I've never cooked with. While I've had radicchio tossed into a salad, it has never been the feature ingredient and I have never bought a head of it at the store.

The grilling takes the bitter edge off of the radicchio and the sweet and sour dressing adds the needed tang. Earthy pecans and creamy goat cheese are a perfect compliment to the salad.

Grilled Radicchio with Pecans and Chevre
1 head of radicchio, sliced into thin wedges
olive oil to coat
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
splash of lemon juice
salt/pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped pecans
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Coat sliced radicchio with oil and grill on a pan or BBQ until brown on the edges, but not soggy. Meanwhile mix the honey, vinegar, lemon juice and salt/pepper together and once the lettuce is plated, pour the dressing over it. Add chopped pecans and goat cheese. Serves 1-2.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Smores Cupcakes

I have a Mom's Club function tomorrow and made these Smores Cupcakes for the bake sale...nothing fancy, just wanted to make you hungry. I used a boxed cake mix, but made my own marshmallow buttercream frosting (2 sticks butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 16 oz marshmallow cream) and topped with graham cracker crumbs. Now if I can just avoid eating one.....nope.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Zucchini Tacos

Here is another veggie-laden meal that was quite satisfying and light at the same time. The taco filling is similar to Zucchini with Spinach Pesto from and then I just added a dollop of fat-free sour cream, a squeeze of lime all atop some grilled corn tortillas. I made the zucchini on day one for a salad, and then on day two I used the leftovers for these tacos. Yummy and healthy!

Here is what I did with the zucchini, only because I had plenty of herbs in the fridge. You could use any combination of greens/herbs that you have for the "pesto" sauce.

2 zucchini, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, sliced thin
1 cup fresh spinach
2 T. chopped cilantro
2 T. chopped basil
1 T. chopped mint
1 clove garlic
1 T. olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. vinegar of choice

To make the pesto, put everything except zucchini and bell pepper in a blender, or use a stick blender. Pour over zucchini and bells and let marinate for at least 30 minutes, stirring a couple times.

For the tacos, I warmed the tortillas on the gas burner and stuffed with the zucchini, added a couple teaspoons of FF sour cream and a squeeze of lime.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Bacon Wrapped Chicken

Got this idea from another blog (gosh, now I can't remember which one) and tried it to the best of my memory. These are chicken thighs with bone in, because they were on sale, but I would rather use boneless. Anyways, I did 2 thighs each in a foil packet on top of some onions, peppers and carrots, but ended up leaving the chicken in the oven for so long to get the bacon crispy that the veggies turned to mush. So I ditched the veggie sludge and served them on lightly steamed spinach.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Thighs

8 chicken thighs
rosemary (not much)
8 pieces of bacon

Season chicken with pepper and spread a tiny amount of dijon on each. Sprinkle with a little rosemary and wrap each one with a piece of bacon. Cook in foil packets or in a baking dish. If you use the foil, be sure to open it up during the last 20 minutes of cooking. I baked in a 400 oven for an hour, but you could probably cut that back to about 40 min. (yes, I am squirmish about getting my chicken totally cooked, hah!) Serve over yummy wilted spinach if you want to be like me. C'mon, you know you do! Serves 4.