Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Off to see the Wizard...

Well, maybe no wizard, but how about Kangaroos and Kiwis? That's right, we're heading to Oz - Australia - followed by New Zealand. I can already taste the fresh fish, not to mention the lamb and beef that both countries are famous for.

I'll have plenty of updates when we get back. Among other things, we're booked to enjoy the Taste of Australia at Ochre restaurant in Cairns. This tasting menu includes... Kangaroo! and Emu! Some friends from work are taking us to the
Waterfront Restaurant in Sydney. If the food is anything like the view, I'll definitely have something to write about.

So check back in mid-September for our adventures - culinary and otherwise in the Land down under.
Daring Bakers note: I've got my post for August all ready. If I get online, I'll publish, but if not, it'll be posted as soon as we get home!

DB August challenge: Eclairs!

My second month as a Daring Baker brought another tasty challenge: homemade eclairs. The rules were simple: make the homemade pastry and choose either chocolate glaze, chocolate filling or both. I went with chocolate glaze and made a vanilla cream filling. These little babies were a huge hit with my family - everyone received a little box of the finished product.

Making the dough was pretty simple, but as I watched them in the oven, I was worried they weren't puffing up enough. In the end, they were perfect but I had to bake them a little longer than the recipe said so that they were nice and golden brown.

I halved the chocolate sauce that goes into the glaze and still had more than enough for the glaze recipe. But I did have to make more vanilla cream to fill all the eclairs. In the end, I had some leftover so I improvised. I had some Phyllo in the fridge so I layered it in muffin cups and baked it until crisp and brown. I then piped in some vanilla cream, sprinkled it with cinnamon, drizzled it with Greek honey and finished the whole thing off with a couple toasted walnuts. Not unlike the Greek Galaktaboureko, Jeff gobbled these down as quickly as the eclairs...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ohhhh Mario!

I just can't find a recipe from Mario Batali that I don't love. On Saturday, Jeff and I stayed in so I decided to make homemade pasta. I flipped thru Molto Italiano and narrowed it down to 3 choices and then I left Jeff pick. He selected Tortelloni di Treviso with Fonduta di Parmegiano (or Tortelloni filled with Radicchio in a Parmesan Cream).

I rolled out thin pasta sheets and then filled them with Mario's filling of Treviso Radicchio, Red onion, Ricotta, Parmegiano Reggiano, Parsley, salt and pepper. I served them with veal scalloppine lightly dredged in flour, salt and pepper and then quickly sauteed with garlic and olive oil. The whole thing was then drizzled with the Parmesan cream. It was a rich meal, but I did cut down on the butter.

Find the recipe in Molto Italiano or on the Food Network website at

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A taste of Greece

Last night I made chicken Spanikopita for dinner. I base my version on a recipe from Williams-Sonoma Chicken. I halve most of the ingredients, resulting in the recipe that follows. The light flaky filo crust is best right out of the oven. Serve with a Greek salad - we almost felt like we were back on Santorini!

Chicken Spanikopita
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package (10-oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 8 oz. feta
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 12 sheets filo dough

Place chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a little salt, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, celery if you have it. Bring to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through. Drain and allow chicken to cool.

In a large non-stick frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp. Olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook until the moisture evaporates, about 2 more minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

While the mixture is cooling, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the spinach mixture. Add the dill. Then crumble the feta into the mixture. Add the eggs, salt and papper to taste and mix thoroughly. (You can make the filling a day ahead and then just assemble the spanikopita in the evening before baking to save time!)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt 2 Tbsp. olive oil with 2 Tbsp. butter in a small dish. Brush a 9x9 inch glass baking dish with the mixtures. Stack the filo sheets on a work surface and cover with a damp paper towel. Brush one sheet with the oil/butter mixture and fit it into the pan, allowing the excess to fall over the edges. Layer a total of 6 sheets in the bottom of the dish, brushing each one. Then spoon in the filling. Layer another 6 sheets on top of the dish, brushing each one. Tuck in the edges. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut and serve!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Around the world in 6 days!

This week's menu turns out to be a mix of reciped from all around the world.
  • Monday - Greece
    Chicken Spanikopita - the Greek favorite of spinach, feta and dill in a filo crust with chicken added.
  • Tuesday - New Orleans
    Shrimp and Smokies - skewered shrimp and spicy Andouille sausage grilled with a beer BBQ sauce
  • Wednesday - New England
    Fresh line caught haddock grilled with shallots and lemon over Israeli couscous and grains
  • Thursday - Vietnam
    Vietnamese grilled chicken with ginger lime dipping sauce
  • Friday - The Deep South
    We're going out for BBQ!
  • Saturday - Italy
    Homemade pasta, veal scallopini and more!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beans, greens... and bacon!

Jeff always says everything tastes better with bacon. Possibly true, if not healthy. I'm always on the lookout for a new recipe for beans - they're healthy and a great change to rice or potatoes. This recipe is quick and simple. I found it on epicurious, but made some changes to reduce the amount of fat. Here's my version:

Beans, greens and bacon
  • 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4-5 slices of bacon
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large
  • 3 cloved garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • Leaves from one bunch of Swiss Chard, washed and chopped into big pieces
  • 1/3 c. beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Sherry
  • Salt and pepper

Cook the bacon and set on paper towels to crisp. When cooled, chop or break into bite-sized pieces. Discard all but 1 Tbsp. of the bacon grease. Add Olive oil to the grease and heat over medium/high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened. Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add the Swiss Chard and cook about 4 minutes, turning once until Swiss chard is wilted. Reduce heat to medium. Add the beans, broth and sherry. Stir and allow to cook about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This cooks in minutes and is great with grilled meat. We also plan to try it with some fish as the bacon will lend a nice smokiness to a simple piece of grilled fish.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shish kabobs

I had a London broil in the freezer that I wanted to use so I decided to make shish kabobs last night. Summer's a great time to make them because of all the fresh veggies available. I use a mix of squash, peppers, onions and mushrooms, but use your favorites (or whatever you have in the fridge). For the best results marinate these overnight or at least 6-8 hours.

1/4 cup red vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. whole grain or brown mustard
1 London broil cut into chunks
Assorted vegetables, cut to same size as beef
Mix all marinade ingredients in a shallow dish. Add the meat and marinade at least 6 hours or overnight. Thread meat and vegetables onto skewers. Before grilling, I baste the veggies with some of the marinade. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes a side works for us!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe

This is another quick and easy pasta dish. I like a lot of garlic and crushed red pepper, but you can adujust this according to your taste. There's usually enough leftover for Jeff to have lunch one day too and occasionally enough for another dinner! I use Barilla Plus pasta to cut down carbs and get some extra Omega-3s. Start to finish this is about 30 minutes!

  • 6 Hot or Sweet Italian Sausages
  • 1 bunch Broccoli Rabe
  • Garlic
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • About 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • about 1/2 lb penne or your favorite pasta
  • Parmegiano-Reggiano (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Squeeze the sausage out of the casing and break it into bite-sized pieces in the pan. Allow it to cook, turning occasionally until browned on all sides. (We like it to get a bit crispy). Scoop it onto paper towels to drain. Reduce heat to medium/low.

While the sausage is cooking, clean the broccoli rabe. Discard the tough stems and wash thoroughly. Set aside.

With a paper towel, wipe excess grease from the pan. Add the Olive oil and allow to heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and let cook for about 30 seconds. Don't let the garlic burn!

Return the sausage to the pan and add the white wine.

Meanwhile, cook apsta according to package directions.

When the white wine comes to a simmer, pile the broccoli rabe on top of the pan. Turn it every couple of minutes so that it all wilts and so any florets cook thru.

To serve, scoop pasta into bowls and top with sausage and broccoli rabe. Be sure to spoon on some of the pan juices as well. (If all your liquid evaporates, add a spoonful of pasta water). Top with fresh grated cheese.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What's cookin'?

August means my herbs are full grown and lots of fresh veggies from the farmers market so we're having some fresh favorites this week.
  • Sunday
    Lobsterfest - See the detail two posts down (with a glamour shot of our three clawed friends)
  • Monday
    Grilled chicken marinated in a puree of fresh basil, a hot green chile, garlic, scallion, sherry vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper
    Served with spicy saffron rice and grilled yellow and green zucchini
  • Tuesday
    Chipotle grilled pork chops, fresh corn on the cob and couscous
  • Wednesday
    Chicken with garlic and white wine over angel hair
  • Thursday
    Take-out - we're going to see Eddie Vedder live...!
  • Friday
    Steaks! Filet mignon to be exact. Sides are still being determined but I found a recipe for cannelini beans with bacon and swiss chard that I might just have a go at. I'll post mroe on this meal later in the week.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Leftover Banana Makeover

Two quickly ripening leftover bananas led me to look for something new to make. I typically make Banana Bran muffins but was in the mood for a change. I found this recipe on Epicurious... Moist and very easy to make!

Banana coconut muffins

Active time: 10 min Start to finish: 45 min
Makes 8-10.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (3/4 cup)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
Chopped walnuts (optional)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line muffin cups with liners.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together bananas, butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, and 1/2 cup coconut in a large bowl until combined well, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in walnuts.
Divide batter among lined muffin cups and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup coconut. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer muffins to a rack and cool slightly.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Who says three's a crowd?

For some reason lobsters are now cheaper per pound than deli meat. So tonight was lobster night at our house. The lobsters were a bit small so I got 2 for Jeff (he ate every bite!). Served with sweet corn fresh from the farmer's market, an arugula salad with fresh mozzarella and aged balsamic vinegar, artisan French bread and a Rosemary potato galette. De-lish!

To cook lobsters, bring an inch and a half to two inches af water to boil in a large pot. Put the lobsters in - head first! Cover the pot and let them steam - 13 minutes for the first pound and one additional minute for each pound after. Perfect every time!

At this price, we may have to have lobster more often!
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