Monday, February 28, 2011

Salami and Cheese Puff Pastry Swirls

I made these as a quick throw-together finger food for a get-together with friends.  At the grocery store, I had grabbed puff pastry and salami, figuring I could pull something together with those and the eight varieties of cheese sitting in my fridge from a recent trip to Wisconsin. 

So late Friday afternoon, with an hour until our friends were expected, I dug into the deli drawer of cheese, and found some gruyere.  This reminded me of a fantastic Ina Garten recipe, Soppressata and Cheese in Puff Pastry from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? 

Her version combines soppressata and gruyere between layers of puff pastry, with some kick from a little Dijon mustard.  Since I was going for cocktail food, I made mine in pinwheel form, and these little two-biters did not disappoint.  Flaky pastry and crispy salami with just enough gooey cheese to hold it all together- delicious!  And the combinations are endless; ham and sharp cheddar, turkey and swiss, pepperoni and smoked mozzarella.

Salami and Cheese Puff Pastry Swirls

What's in them:

1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
2-3 Tbsp. of Dijon mustard
6 thin slices of salami
3/4 c. shredded gruyere
1 egg

How to make them:

Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface, to about 1/8-in thick.  Spread the mustard over the pastry, evenly covering all but a 3/4-in border at the top.  Lay salami on the pastry, then sprinkle cheese evenly over top. 

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix egg with a little water to make an egg wash.  Brush the border at the top of the pastry with the egg wash, then roll up the pastry carefully.  Cut the roll into half-inch slices, and lay them on a baking sheet (lining it with parchment paper makes clean up much easier!).  Brush each pastry swirl with egg wash, and bake until bubbly and brown, about 12-15 minutes.  Serve hot, and watch them disappear!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Food for Thought: Real Simple's 30 Superfoods

Last week while I was killing some time at the airport on my way home from a business trip, the cover of the February issue of Real Simple caught my eye- bright and fresh after a few damp and gray days in Seattle.  The accompanying article, The 30 Healthiest Foods, also had me curious what their list would be, and how much of it I ate on a regular basis. 

I already had plenty of reading material for the flight, but checked out the list over the weekend.  I was really surprised to see that with the exception of almonds, edamame, and sardines, this reads like my grocery list:
  1. almonds
  2. avocados
  3. barley
  4. black beans
  5. blueberries
  6. broccoli
  7. bulgur
  8. chard
  9. chicken breasts
  10. edamame
  11. eggs
  12. EVOO
  13. kale
  14. kidney beans
  15. kiwi
  16. lentils
  17. mushrooms
  18. oatmeal (old-fashioned or steel cut)
  19. oranges
  20. peanut and almond butters
  21. pumpkin
  22. quinoa
  23. sardines
  24. skim milk
  25. spinach
  26. sweet potatoes
  27. walnuts
  28. whole-grain pasta
  29. wild salmon
  30. yogurt
It just goes to show that healthy can be delicious as well! 

How many of these do you eat on a regular basis?  Anything else you think should have been on the list?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mini Bacon-Cheddar Scones

I knew I would love these savory scones as soon as I saw them adapted from The Pastry Queen on Annie's Eats.  I like sweets as much as the next girl, but I love savory baked goods.  Goat cheese and black pepper in a quick bread?  I'm sold.  Jalapenos and cheese to cornbread?  Yes, please.  Cheese, bacon and scallions to a scone?  I must have them now!

I made mine mini this time around since they were for an evening cocktail get together with friends and finger foods always go faster there.  I also added a little maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.  Light and fluffy, but with some sturdiness from the bacon and cheese, a couple of them with a dab of jalapeno jelly and a cup of tea also made for an indulgent afternoon snack. 

Mini Bacon-Cheddar Scones

What's in them:

3 c all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp ground black pepper (depending on your preference)
8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1½ c grated cheddar cheese
4 green onions, thinly sliced
10 slices bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled into small pieces
1 c buttermilk
2 Tbsp real maple syrup
½ c milk for brushing

How to make them:

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and black pepper; mix briefly to combine.  Add the cubes of butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter pieces are about the size of small peas.  (Alternatively, this can be done in a regular mixing bowl, using a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients.)  Add in the grated cheese and mix just until incorporated.

Mix in the green onions, bacon, buttermilk and the maple syrup into the flour-butter mixture.  Stir by hand just until all the ingredients are incorporated.  If the dough is too dry to come together, mix in a little of the milk a tablespoon or two at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat the dough into an 8-inch square.  Slice the dough into nine squares, then slice diagonally for 18 wedges.

Brush each wedge lightly with milk.  Transfer the scones to an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

If you'd like to make these ahead and keep them on hand in your freezer (and I really think you should), place the baking sheet into the freezer instead of the oven.  When the scones are completely frozen, place them in a freezer bag.  Bake as needed, adding a minute or two to the baking time above.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bison Lasagna with Butternut Bechamel

I always feel pulled in two directions when planning meals this time of year.  On one hand, I'm still trying to stay on track with balanced, reasonably healthy meals after all of the indulgence of the holidays.  But on the other, it's winter, and I want something hearty, filling, and, if at all possible, cheesy.  So when I saw this beautiful vegetable lasagna with butternut bechamel that won The Kitchn's best healthy casserole contest, it looked like I could have it both ways!

As the original recipe suggested, I added ground bison for more protein.  It's a very lean red meat, and paired very well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and butternut squash.  I also used spinach instead of chard, as the chard at the grocery store was looking a little off that day. 

The squash made the sauce so rich and creamy that we didn't miss the usual quantity of cheese, and the veggies pack a great nutritional punch as well as adding a ton of flavor.

Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut BĂ©chamel

What's in it:

1/2 pound (about 8) lasagna noodles
1 to 1 1/2 pound butternut squash (or 1 pounds chopped squash)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 pound ground bison
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large bag spinach

1/4 cup water or white wine
3/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheese mix

How to make it:

Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch baking dish with olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the lasagna noodles and cook as directed on the package. When cooked, drain and lay out on clean kitchen towels to dry.

While the pasta is cooking, peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1-inch cubes and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes or until extremely soft.

Heat a thin drizzle of oil oil in a medium sautĂ© pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and crumble bison into the pan.  Brown the meat, and remove to a plate.  Add more oil to the pan if necessary, and add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring until quite brown — about 5 to 7 minutes. Flip them over and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, and add the garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is fragrant — about another minute. Add the spinach and 1/4 cup water or white wine and cook until the leaves are tender and wilted. Turn off the heat and season the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper.

At this point the butternut squash should be very soft. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Scrape all the squash into a bowl and add 1/2 cup milk, the nutmeg and thyme. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, adding the remaining milk as you go (this can also be done in a traditional blender). Add extra milk if necessary to make the sauce smooth and creamy, but not too thin. (Think thin fruit smoothie.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

To assemble the lasagna, spoon about 1/4 of the butternut sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking pan and spread to thinly coat the bottom. Place 1/4 of the noodles on top and then spread 1/3 of remaining sauce on noodles. Top with 1/2 of the cooked vegetables, and 1/3 cup of cheese. Add another layer of noodles, then sauce, then the rest of the vegetables, and 1/3 cup of cheese. Place the final layer of noodles over the vegetables and spread the last 1/3 of the sauce over top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheese and a pinch of thyme.

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese is gooey. Remove from the oven and let stand uncovered for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jalapeno-Cheddar Bread

Despite my best intentions to pull together a Superbowl party this year, travel and other commitments nixed that plan.  Instead, my parents brought chili, and I supplied the toppings and sides.  While I had originally intended to make cornbread, Kira at Cook, Pray, Love reminded me how much I had liked Homesick Texan's Jalapeno Cheddar Bread a couple of years ago when I was first starting out with yeast breads.  I did sub cornmeal for the semolina to give it some heft, and reduced the amount of peppers since my dad's chili is always super spicy.  The bread was great with the chili, and has made excellent toast for breakfast and BLTs since then.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Bread

What's in it:

2 1/4 teaspoons
1/4 cup of warm water
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
2 1/2 cups of bread flour plus more if needed
1 cup of yellow cornmeal

3 jalapenos, stemmed and seeded, diced
2 cups of cheddar cheese, grated.
1 cup of buttermilk
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt (can add more to taste)

How to make it:

Mix together the yeast and water.  Mix together the melted butter, egg and buttermilk and add to yeast and water.  Add the salt, sugar and bread flour to the liquids and mix well. Then add the cornmeal to the dough and mix well. If the dough is too wet, gradually add more bread flour 1/4 cup at a time.  I did end up adding nearly a cup of flour, I'm guessing because the cornmeal doesn't absorb as much water as the flour.

Place dough on a floured surface and knead for five to ten minutes until dough is smooth.  Form dough into a ball and place into a bowl greased with butter.  Cover the bowl, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size—about an hour.  Turn out dough on a floured surface, and slowly knead into the dough the jalapenos and cheese, a little bit at a time.  When cheese and jalapenos are incorporated into the dough, place dough into a greased bread loaf pan (8-1/2" x 4-1/2" x 2-3/4). 

Cover the pan and let dough rise until doubled in size (it should be at the top or a bit over the top of the pan)—about an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake bread for 40-45 minutes on a center rack (when you thump the top and it sounds hollow, the bread is done).   Let cool for ten minutes, and then slide it out of the pan, slice and serve with your favorite chili, barbeque, or sandwich, or just toast and drizzle with honey!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Food for Thought: Where Do Chicken Legs Go?

Have you ever thought of where chicken legs go?  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts have for so long been marketed in the U.S. as the “healthy” part of the chicken, that the dark meat has become a second-rate protein here.   But in many places, it’s the more popular portion of the chicken.   This segment on NPR’s All Things Considered tells us that much of our dark meat goes (or at least went) to Russia.  
I Love Chicken Legs from Natalie Dee

Personally, I prefer dark meat anyway.  It’s richer, rarely dries out, and can stand up to flavorful sauces and accompaniments, plus it’s generally less expensive than white meat, all for just a few more calories than white meat. 
What’s your preference?  Why?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Alton Brown's Ramen Radiator

Ramen always takes me back to memories of college.  I went to a school that required a ridiculous number of credits per semester, so there were a lot of late nights (though I have to admit that not all of them were schoolwork related).  Dinner was served at 5:30 every evening.  The result was that when I was still awake at midnight, ramen was pretty much the only thing I could manage to get into my rumbling stomach before I fell exhausted into bed.

This is not the same ramen.

Alton Brown's recipe for this sweet and spicy Asian seafood noodle soup has made me take back my vow to never eat ramen noodles again.  Once that sodium-filled seasoning packet is tossed aside, the noodles become a blank canvas for the layers of flavor included here.  Plus, the cooking method is a lot of fun.  Like Alton says, it's the coolest recipe in the book.

I did make a couple of changes- a little more shrimp, a little garlic, and low-sodium miso soup mix since my regular store apparently doesn't stock miso paste.

Alton Brown's Ramen Radiator, from I'm Just Here for the Food 2.0

What's in it:

1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
8 oz brown mushrooms
1 3-oz package of ramen noodles
2 8-oz halibut fillets, or other mild white fish or salmon (I used flounder)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp honey
Pinch of chili flakes
6 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 8)
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
4 scallions, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 c mirin
2 c miso or vegetable broth (I used a pack of miso soup mix and 2 c of water)

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat a saute pan over high heat, add the oils, then add the mushrooms and toss; cook until caramelized, about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Break the noodle "loaf" in half (I find this makes the least mess if you do it in the bag before you open it).  Season the fish with salt and pepper, drizzle honey on each fillet, and sprinkle with red chili flakes.

Line two large bowls with sturdy aluminum foil, making sure that there is a lot hanging over the sides.  Lay half of the noodles in each bowl and top with the fish.  Spread the shrimp, mushrooms and onions around the noodles.  Top with the scallions and garlic.  Bring foil up around the food and pinch closed, leaving an opening large enough to pour the liquids into.

Mix the liquids together, and pour half into each foil pouch and seal.  Move the packets to a baking sheet and bake for 22-25 minutes.  Return pouches to bowls for serving.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Spicy Root Vegetables

Vince finally came home on Tuesday after a week and a half overseas.  Since he'd been living on restaurant food while he was there, I wanted to welcome him home with some homey comfort food.  Initially, I thought about roasting a whole chicken with all the trimmings, but making that happen on a weeknight was unlikely.  Besides, Vince would be getting in just before dinner time, and I wanted to be able to enjoy his company, not be fussing with dinner, so something a little more hands-off was in order.

Then I remembered seeing roasted chicken thighs with root vegetables at The Way the Cookie Crumbles.  All of the good parts of a chicken dinner, but in half the time.  I did spice it up a little, since spicy is pretty much Vince's favorite food group, and add a sweet potato since there was one languishing in the pantry.  This was a great dish to reconnect as a family over. 

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Spicy Root Vegetables

What's in it:

3 medium carrots, scrubbed, cut into spears
3 medium parsnips, scrubbed, cut into spears
5-6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, quartered

1 small sweet potato, cut into wedges
2 small onions, quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
pinch cayenne
4 large chicken thighs with skin and bones
2 tsp kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried oregano

1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Mix the olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and half the salt and pepper in small bowl.  Spray a 9×13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray or olive oil.  Place the carrots, parsnips, potatoes, and onions in the pan and toss with the spice mixture.  

Lay the chicken, skin-side up, over the vegetables. Rub the oregano and the remaining salt and pepper on the chicken and under its skin.  Bake until the chicken is golden and cooked through, 35-45 minutes. Serve.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Food for Thought: What Do You Think of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines?

Have you seen the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report recently released by the USDA?  These guidelines affect all government nutrition programs- school lunch requirements, Meals on Wheels, the Food Pyramid, food subsidies, and so on.  While I admittedly only read the Executive Summary and Appendix E-1: Major Conclusions, there were quite a few things that I liked about them.
  • recommendations on how individuals can apply the findings in their daily habits
    • more nutrient-dense foods as a opposed to energy-dense foods
    • eat fewer processed foods
    • limit TV time and be more active
    • cook and eat at home more often
  • expanding the findings from the individual impacts to environmental and societal considerations
    • access to healthy food
    • TV and other media
    • the food service industry
There's a greater emphasis on general health, not just nutrition, and a more direct tone on the obesity epidemic.  The guidelines aren't perfect, but I think they're moving in the right direction.

What do you think of the new dietary guidelines?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chorizo, White Bean and Kale Soup

I realize that this is the second soup recipe on a blog that currently has just six posts including this one.  It's just that I love soup.  It's like a really good friend, comforting and forgiving.  Yes, forgiving.  You see, it's really hard to mess up soup.  Don't have the right vegetable, meat or liquid?  Toss in another.  Staring at a veggie drawer full of odds and ends?  Go ahead and put those in there too.  It'll still be warm, comforting goodness in your bowl.

I had seen similar soups in many places: Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Je Mange La Ville, and probably some others that I can't remember.  This isn't exactly an unusual combination of ingredients.  But of course my netbook battery was dead, I couldn't find hard copies of any of them, and the desktop and printer were all the way upstairs.  So I winged it.  Since I made this on a weeknight about half an hour before dinner time, it's a little simpler than some of the other recipes that inspired this one.  But the result was a filling, substantial soup that didn't taste like I had tossed it together at the last minute.

Chorizo, White Bean and Kale Soup

What's in it:

2 links fresh chorizo sausage, removed from casing and broken into small chunks
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed and chopped (about 3 cups)

How to make it:

Heat your favorite soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add chorizo, and cook until browned and almost cooked through, stirring frequently.  Add onions and garlic, cook until the onions start to soften.

Add tomatoes, beans and broth, and bring to a simmer.  Stir in kale, continuing to simmer until the kale wilts in the soup.

At this point, I used an immersion blender to puree about half the soup to give it a creamier, thicker texture.

Check soup for seasoning; add salt and pepper if desired.  Between the canned beans and the chorizo, I didn't find it necessary to add any other salt to the soup.