Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Citrus Orzo and Shrimp Salad

Winter has been pretty non-existent here this year, with just a few dustings of snow and ridiculously mild temperatures.  I feel a little cheated out of snow days with lazy mornings and big pots of soup simmering all day.  But it's starting to get light out before I even leave for work, we're heading outside more often when we get home in the afternoons to run around and blow bubbles, and it's making me want lighter, more summery foods.

This salad was mostly me trying to use up some random stuff from the fridge and freezer, but the basic idea for it came from a couple of recipes on Ezra Pound Cake.  The bright citrus plays nicely off of the salty feta, and the spicy shrimp are perfect with the creamy avocado.  If I can't have winter, this is a nice way to welcome warmer weather!

Citrus Shrimp and Orzo Salad
serves 3-4

What's in it:

Zest and juice of one small orange
Zest and juice of one lime, divided
1 large or two small cloves of garlic, minced, divided
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tsp adobo sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 c sliced dry-packed sundried tomatoes
2-3 c baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 c orzo pasta
1 tomato, diced
1/2 c crumbled feta
1 avocado, diced

How to make it:

Start water boiling for the orzo.  Whisk the zests, orange juice, half of the lime juice and half of the garlic together in a large bowl.  Drizzle in three tablespoons of the olive oil, still whisking.  Salt to taste and set the dressing aside.  Add the orzo to the boiling water, and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. 

While the orzo cooks, combine the remaining lime juice, garlic and olive oil with the adobo sauce and brown sugar, and a little salt.  Add the shrimp and stir to coat.

While the shrimp marinates, mix the sundried tomatoes and spinach into the dressing.  Drain the orzo when it's cooked, and immediately add the to the bowl with the spinach, letting the heat from the pasta cook the spinach slightly and stirring to let the orzo absorb some of the dressing.

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and add the shrimp and marinade.  Cook the shrimp for a minute or two on each side, until pink, and add them and any sauce in the pan to the pasta.  Stir in the tomato, feta and avocado and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tomato Orzo Soup

A Taste of Home Cooking's recipe swap theme was soups and stews for this round, and with perfect timing.  Despite a pretty mild winter so far, we had a little cold snap this past weekend (though none of the snow that was predicted), and soup was exactly right.  My assignment was Tomato Orzo Soup from Melissa at Fried Rice and Donut Holes.

This soup was really good, and really filling despite being basically vegetarian.  I made a few adjustments based on what I had on hand, which meant using carrots to make up for the celery, whole San Marzano tomatoes instead of diced, and chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth called for.  I also used my stick blender to get a smoother texture, since I'm feeding someone who likes "just soup, no chunks."  The tanginess from the sour cream rounds out the flavors nicely, and I think plain Greek yogurt would work equally well.  If you're feeling fancy and have some time on your hands, basil puree and sour cream thinned with a little lemon juice make nice garnishes

Tomato Orzo Soup

What's in it:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 c finely diced onion
1 c finely diced carrot

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 carton (32 oz) chicken broth
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/4 c orzo pasta
1/2 c sour cream
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil

How to make it:

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onions and carrots, and cook on medium-high heat for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 2 more minutes.

Add the whole and crushed tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, break up the whole tomatoes.  Add the stock, blend to desired texture with an immersion blender, and return to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the pasta and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the pasta is firm but tender. Remove from heat, add sour cream, and fold in the basil.

Serve hot, garnished with additional sour cream, basil and parmesan if desired.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Moroccan-Style Lamb and Chickpeas

The first time I had Moroccan food was at Epcot at Walt Disney World.  I was about 8 or 9, and I just fell in love with the spiced richness of it.  Since I've been cooking, any recipe with "Moroccan" in the title goes onto the to-make list almost automatically. 

I didn't change much in this recipe, just added a little garlic, and swapped mint for the cilantro, since I really associate mint more strongly with Moroccan food than cilantro.  The original recipe suggests serving over couscous, but we had this over Moroccan Spiced Spaghetti Squash that I saw on the Jey of Cooking- delicious!  This was a really great meal, flavorful, fairly healthy, and a nice variation on the usual pasta with meat sauce.

Moroccan-Style Lamb and Chickpeas
adapted from Cooking Light

What's in it:

1 lb lean ground lamb
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 c diced onion
1/2 c (1/4-inch) diagonally cut carrot

2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
2 c fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c golden raisins
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1 (15 1/2-ounce can) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/3 c chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

How to make it:

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb to pan; cook until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove lamb from pan with a slotted spoon and discard drippings.

Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and carrot to pan and sauté until softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, and pepper.  Continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add reserved lamb, broth, and next 5 ingredients, through chickpeas, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in mint and lemon juice.

Serve warm over couscous, rice or anything else you'd like.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

White Chocolate Caramel Blondies

I generally provide dessert for a weekly get-together with friends, and often find myself making different types of brownies and cookies.  They're easy to make a day or two ahead of time, and travel easily when you're also juggling a preschooler, samples of the latest batch of home-brewed beer, and other assorted items that are being loaned out or returned, all on a two or three block walk.  And out of all the varieties I've made (and there have been a lot over the last two years), these blondies were by far one of the group's favorites. 

When I first read the ingredient list for these, I was a little surprised by the extra half stick of butter, and thought about just using two since I was running low.  But I went with it, and wow did it make these bars good.  Chewy and almost fudgy, with a ton of caramelly flavor, it was totally worth wiping out my supply of butter.  I also followed Jen's suggestion to cut back on the spices to shift these away from the original holiday-oriented gingerbread version of these bars, keeping just some of the cinnamon.  Eventually, I'd like to try a version with some orange zest, but for now, I'm not going to mess with what's become one of my favorite standbys.

White Chocolate Caramel Blondies
adapted (just slightly) from Martha Stewart via Beantown Baker

What's in them:

2 3/4 cups plus 1 Tbsp flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 sticks (20 Tbsp or 1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
11 ounces white chocolate chips

How to make them:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs and yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla and molasses.

Reduce speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, 30-35 minutes (the middle might not be set). Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  When completely cooled, cut into 24 bars (they're so rich that you really can get 24 from a 9x13" pan).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beef Wellington Hand Pies

These hand pies were not what I intended to make for dinner the other night.  I had seen a recipe for steak and mushroom pot pies on Pinterest a few weeks ago, and really meant to make those.  But then I realized the day before that I didn’t have enough of an appropriate cut of beef in the freezer, and it was too late to retrieve more from the freezer of the friend that we split the cow with all those months ago.  Thinking to just increase the mushrooms to round things out, I continued rounding up ingredients, but found that I had used up the last of the beef stock I had made, and was now missing two pretty key ingredients.  It was starting to look like take-out night.

But then Vince and I started talking about separate trips to London we had made a few years ago, and I remembered some really good hand pies I’d had, including and ground beef and mushroom one.  With that, the ground beef, mushrooms and puff pastry I had started to sound a lot like Beef Wellington.  A quick visit to Google confirmed that the addition of wine, cream, thyme and onions (all things I already had in the house) would get me all of the flavors of traditional Beef Wellington.  And they turned out wonderfully.  Surprisingly quick to put together, and absolutely delicious, these made a really fun twist on Beef Wellington.
Beef Wellington Hand Pies
What’s in them:
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbsp butter
1 c sliced cremini mushrooms
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ c red wine
2 Tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg

How to make them:
Heat oven to 400°.
Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan.  Crumble the ground beef into the pan to brown, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside the beef, discard the drippings, and wipe out the pan.
Heat butter and the remaining oil in the pan, and add onions and cook until they begin to soften.  Add the mushrooms, continuing to cook until vegetables are browned.  Add garlic and thyme, and deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Stir in the cream and Worcestershire sauce, then add the beef back to the pan, gently stirring to combine.
Roll the thawed puff pastry into a 1/8” thick sheet, and cut into 4 equal portions.  Spoon the beef mixture onto the puff pastry, being careful to not over fill each and to leave a ½” border.  (You'll probably have extra filling; I used the leftovers to top some egg noodles for a quick lunch).  Whisk the egg with a little water, and brush the egg mixture onto the edges of the pastry.  Fold the pastry over and seal, using a fork to crimp the edges.
Arrange pastries on a baking sheet, brush each with the egg wash, and cut two small slits in the top of each.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Salt and Vinegar Roasted Potatoes

Well, hi there.  Where did January go?  I can't believe it's been over a month since I last shared anything here.  I've still been busy in the kitchen, and even remembered to take some photos, but writing about the food has kind of gotten away from me.  To help me get back in the groove, I signed up for A Taste of Home Cooking's recipe swap again.  The theme for this round was potatoes, which I appreciate since side dishes are often an after thought when I'm planning meals. 

I received Melissa at Delicious Meliscious's recipe for salt and vinegar roasted potatoes.  I was pretty excited, since I've made potatoes with a very similar recipe before and knew they'd be a hit in my house.  I did end up using cider vinegar since the last of the malt vinegar had been used on some fries unbeknownst to me, and while the potatoes were still good, you should definitely stick with the malt vinegar.  These potatoes are really a year-round side, as great with barbecued chicken and a light green bean salad as they are with roast beef and Brussels sprouts.

Salt and Vinegar Roasted Potatoes

What's in them:

10 baby Yukon potatoes
2 Tbsp (or so) of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Malt vinegar to taste (I used about 3 Tbsp)

How to make them:

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until fork-tender.   I did this the day before to reduce prep time during the dinner rush.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Drain the potatoes then place them, one at a time, on a paper towel. Fold the paper towel over the potato and carefully smash the potato with the palm of your hand so that is flattened but still in one piece. Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Place the smashed potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil and drizzle with olive oil, coating well and making sure that it gets into all of the little crannies in the smashed potatoes.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place into the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully flip the potatoes over and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush each potato with malt vinegar to taste and sprinkle with a bit more sea salt. Serve immediately.