Weekly Winner: Shiitake and Spinach Shine in Sensational Supper

mushroom udonMy ongoing love of noodles continues, and lately my taste buds have been craving the Asian variety.  My surprise, however, came when I discovered I don’t need meat to be totally satisfied and in love with a dish.  That dish is: Udon Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach from Milk Street Magazine.  Another surprise, these were not the big, fat, chewy udon noodles that I’ve been obsessing over lately but the thinner, dried variety.  These made for a totally luscious bowl of noodles and I wouldn’t change a thing!

Udon Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients:

10 oz dried udon noodles

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil (divided)

1/4 cup dry sherry

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 tsp white sugar

1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms (stemmed, caps thinly sliced)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

5 oz baby spinach

1/2 tsp white pepper

Toasted sesame seed oil (for garnish)

Sesame seeds (for garnish)

Procedure:

  • Bring 4 quarts water to a boil, add udon noodles and cook, stirring, until al dente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain.  Rinse with cold water and then drain again.  Toss with 1 tablespoons oil
  • In a small bowl, stir together sherry, soy sauce, sugar and set aside.
  • In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat remaining oil until shimmering.  Add mushrooms and salt, then stir to coat. Cover and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and well-browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Add spinach and the sherry-soy sauce mixture, then stir, scraping up any browned bits.  Cook over medium, tossing with tongs, until the spinach is wilted, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the udon, pepper and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water.  Cook, tossing, until the noodles are heated through, about 1 minute, adding more water if the noodles appear dry.  Serve drizzled with toasted sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

 

 

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Weekly Winner: Sensational Simple Salmon Salad (with substitution)!

salmon saladWhen it’s hot and sticky in Chicago, I love a salad for dinner.  I also love salmon.  It is one of the few proteins that I don’t mind eating cold or at room temperature which makes it great for salads.  What I don’t love; however is watercress.  I find that it totally takes over a dish – much stronger than its delicate little leaves would lead you to believe!  So when I came across Nigella Lawson‘s Salmon, Avocado, Watercress and Pumpkin Seed Salad, I knew I’d give it a try — with one slight alteration. Now, without further ado, I present Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad.

Salmon, Avocado, Arugula and Pumpkin Seed Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the salmon:

2 salmon filets (approx. 8 oz total)

2 spring onions, trimmed

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-1/2 tsp lime juice

2 tsp sea salt flakes

For the salad:

3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds

5 oz arugula

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 ripe avocado

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt flakes (or to taste)

Procedure:

  1. Put the salmon filets in a small frying pan and cover with cold water.  Add the whole spring onions and peppercorns, squeeze in the lime juice and sprinkle in the salt, then bring to a boil, uncovered.  When the pan is bubbling, turn the filets over, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 7 minutes. Take the filets out of the liquid and leave to cool completely.  Once cool, the salmon will be cooked through.
  2. While the salmon is cooking, start on the salad.  Toast the pumpkin seeds by tossing them in a dry frying pan on high heat.  They will start jumping a little, and will darken and get a smokier taste.  When toasted, transfer to a cold plate.
  3. When you are ready to make the salad, put the arugula into a large shallow bowl (or split between 2 bowls), sprinkle with the vinegar and toss.  Add the salmon, removing the skin and tearing the fish into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Halve the avocado and remove the pit.  Spoon the flesh out onto the salmon and arugula.  Drizzle the oil over the salad, sprinkle with the salt and half of the toasted pumpkin seeds, and toss gently to mix.  Scatter the remaining pumpkin seeds on top and serve.

Weekly Winner: Pièce de Résistance Risotto

risottoWhat’s not to like about risotto, right?  It needs very little to be perfect.  Often, by adding a bunch of other stuff to it you only take away from the stunning simplicity of the dish.  Simple flavors are definitely the best.  The same can be said for tomatoes in summer.  Don’t mess with them.  They are fabulous just as they are — they need very little help to be sensational.  Put these two things together and you have the penultimate meal – Tomato and Parmesan Risotto.

The recipe for this bowl of awesomeness comes from Bon Appetit.  Honestly. after making this dish I am very tempted to trash all other risotto recipes.  They just seem overwrought and fussy.  However; perfect tomatoes will not be available year-round so maybe I’ll keep those other recipes around for the dead of winter.  Any other time, risotto means this dish.

Tomato and Parmesan Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 oz. finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more shaved for serving
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

  • Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan; keep warm over medium-low heat until ready to use.

  • Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until golden and very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until it darkens slightly and begins to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and nutmeg, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until some of the tomatoes begin to burst, about 2 minutes.

  • Stir in rice; season with salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 3 minutes. Ladle in 2 cups broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until completely absorbed, 8–10 minutes. Ladle in another 2 cups broth and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked through and most of the broth is absorbed, 12–15 minutes.

  • Add butter, 2 oz. Parmesan, and remaining 1 cup broth and cook, stirring constantly, until risotto is very creamy looking, about 4 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Divide risotto among bowls. Top with shaved Parmesan and lots of pepper and drizzle with more oil.

Weekly Winner: Meatless Monday Merges with Taco Tuesday

TostadaAs a certified carnivore, it may surprise you to know that I think there are certain dishes in which meat, of any kind, just really isn’t important.  Seriously, why waste the extra calories, fat and work of having meat in a dish that truly doesn’t need it.  Case in point – Mexican food.  There’s little better than a perfectly constructed bean and cheese burrito — or in the case of last night’s dinner — a Chickpea and Chipotle Tostada.  This dish has everything a good tostada needs: a gooey base, shredded cheese, avocado and a zippy sour cream-based sauce.

This tasty, meatless treat comes from Taste of Home magazine, which surprisingly has a great collection of vegetarian recipes.  These are a bright, fresh, modern spin on the usual tostadas.  To make this even easier, I chose to use store bought tostada shells rather than toast up the tortillas as the recipe suggests.

Chickpea and Chipotle Tostadas

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 12 corn tortillas (6 inches) – [I used store-bought tostada shells]
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Procedure:

  1.  Preheat broiler.  In batches, spritz both sides of tortillas with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet; broil 4-5 inches from heat until crisp and lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. If you use store bought tostada shells – you can skip this step.
  2. For sauce, mix sour cream and salsa
  3. In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, cook and stir red pepper and onion over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic; cook and stir for 1 minute.  Stir in broth, chickpeas, chipotles, cumin and salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Coarsely mash mixture with a potato masher; stir in lime juice.  Cook over low heat to thicken, stirring frequently.
  5. To serve, top tostadas with chickpea mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Weekly Winner – My New Go-To Grilled Chicken – Lovely & Lacquered

sprite chickenWho doesn’t love grilled or barbecued chicken?  Done right, it’s a thing of beauty.  Too often; however it is done wrong…. horribly wrong.  Scorched, flabby, half raw, dry — you name it, I’ve achieved it on the grill.  Truth is, it is not easy to grill skin-on, bone-in chicken.  Which is why I was skeptical when I came across the recipe for Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grill Chicken from Milk Street Magazine.

What was their secret for picture-perfect poultry perfection?  Pop! Yep, lemon-lime soda (along with a whole lot of other tasty additions).  While apparently Filipino in origin, this will now become Donna’s Chicago Chicken.

Lemon-Lime Lacquered Grilled Chicken (Inihaw Na Manok)

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup soy sauce

6 Tbsp packed light or dark brown sugar

6 medium cloves garlic, peeled

4 bay leaves

1 Tbsp black peppercorns

Kosher salt

1 cup lemon-lime soda, such as Sprite or 7Up (I used Sprite)

3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks, trimmed and patted dry (I only used thighs and drumsticks)

1 Tbsp lime juice

Procedure:

  1. In a blender, combine the vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, bay, peppercorns and 1-1/2 tsps. salt.  Blend until well combined and the bay leaves are broken into tiny bits, 15-30 seconds.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl, then stir in the soda
  2. If using chicken breasts, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each in half crosswise.
  3. Cut 2 or 3 diagonal slashes about 1/2 inch deep through the skin and meat of each piece of chicken.  Add the chicken to the marinade and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.  For a charcoal grill, spread a large chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed; open the bottom grill vents and the lid vent.  Heat the grill, covered for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grates.  For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes, then clean and oil the cooking grate; leave the primary burner on high and turn the remaining burner(s) to low.
  5. While the grill heats, transfer the chicken to a large plate, allowing the marinade to drip off.  Pour the marinade into a medium saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and set aside.  Set aside 1/3 cup for serving; use the remainder as a basting sauce.
  6. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Generously brush the pieces with basting sauce, then re-cover and cook until the thickest part of the breasts, if using, reaches 160F or the thickest part of the thighs and drumsticks, reach 175F, another 15-20 minutes.
  7. Brush the chicken with the basting sauce, then flip the chicken skin side down onto the hot side of the grill.  Cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute.  Brush the bone side with more basting sauce, then flip a final time and cook until deeply browned, about 1 minute more.  Transfer skin side up to a platter and let rest for about 5 minutes.  Serve with the reserved sauce.

 

Weekly Winner: This Salad Outshines the Swine; or when Pork Pales to Panzanella

watermelon panzanellaIt’s no secret that I am a big fan of the pig.  Love me some pork.  But this time, the pork absolutely paled in comparison to this spin on the panzanella salad.  Now, to be fair, I’m also a huge fan of bread.  Bread in or with anything is good, but I adore bread in salad.  So, obviously, Pork Tenderloin with Watermelon Panzanella was a tremendous hit and will absolutely become a summer staple around here.  Best part was since you grill the bread and the pork — the kitchen stays blissfully cool.  Some may say cool as a cucumber, but in this case it was cool as a freshly cut watermelon.  The recipe comes from Eating Well Magazine and this time… I didn’t change a thing!

Pork Tenderloin with Watermelon Panzanella

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp salt

4 slices crusty whole-wheat bread (10 ounces)

4 Tbsp olive oil

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

6 cups chopped watermelon

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/2 cup torn fresh basil

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Procedure:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high
  2. Season pork with chili powder, pepper and salt.  Grill the pork, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 140F, 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes
  3. Grill bread until charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.  When cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch pieces.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk oil, lime zest, lime juice and jalapeño in a large bowl.  Add watermelon, onion, basil feta and the bread and toss to coat.
  5. Slice the pork 1/2-inch thick and serve with the watermelon panzanella.

Weekly Winner: Fabulous, Fuss-Free “Fried” Chicken – and a killer sauce

magic chickenI just got back from a trip to Denver where I had one of the top five Fried Chicken experiences in my life.  Totally amazing, crispy, crunchy, soul-satisfying chicken.  Not diet-friendly however.  But hey, that’s what vacation is for – to indulge.

Now that I’m home and trying to “recover”, I wanted to try this recipe for Magic Crispy Chicken that I came across in Bon Appetit.  I’ve tried different versions of “oven fried” chicken before and while they are easier and less messy than traditional fried chicken, they seldom deliver on taste and crunch satisfaction.  This version does.  Make extra of the dipping sauce…. you’ll want to put that on just about everything!

Magic Crispy Chicken

Serves 4

1 large egg yolk

3 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp  plus 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1-1/2 tsp kosher salt plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1-1/2 lb skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 large)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp honey

Pinch of cayenne

3 Tbsp finely chopped chives

Procedure:

  1. Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 450F.  Whisk egg yolk, 3 Tbsp mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp mustard, 1-1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of black pepper in a large bowl until smooth.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. With a knife parallel to the cutting board, slice breast into 1/2″-thick cutlets.  Place in bowl and turn with tongs to evenly coat.  Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium.  Add a pinch of panko.  If tiny bubbles appear instantly, the oil is hot enough.  Add remaining panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Let panko cool in pan about 5 minutes.
  4. Place a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.  Using tongs, place a piece of chicken in panko and pat all over with panko, pressing firmly to adhere.  Lightly shake off excess and place chicken on rack.  Repeat with remaining chicken, spacing evenly apart on rack.  Discard any remaining panko.
  5. Bake chicken until cooked through and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  6. Stir honey, cayenne, and remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise and 1/4 cup mustard in a bowl; season with black pepper.  Add chives to sauce.
  7. Serve chicken with sauce alongside for dipping.

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