Weekly Winner: Green Goddess Goes Hipster

IMG_0459People generally fall into two categories with salad dressing: you’re either on Team Vinaigrette or Team Creamy.  Me? Definitely Team Creamy — ranch, blue cheese, French, Thousand Island (don’t judge!), I love them all.  Perhaps my favorite is Green Goddess.  This rich, herbaceous dressing is not as widely known or used as others, but to me, it just screams “Spring”.

I’m still waiting for Spring here in Chicago, so this recipe served as a nice reminder that yes, eventually, warmer weather will arrive.

Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Green Goddess Dressing comes from Southern Living magazine.  It’s very light and fresh-tasting and the quinoa and chicken both add substance to make it more filling.  Then there’s the fabulous, herby, dressing — no need to feel guilty about drizzling on this rich dressing since it is only enhancing all the healthy goodness in the salad itself.  And should you feel the slightest bit guilty about using rotisserie chicken, just stop!  It’s my secret weapon.  Cheap, delicious and ready instantly.  Honestly, if you’re picky about where you get your rotisserie chicken, I dare say you can’t make it better yourself, so why even try??

Chicken-Quinoa Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 Tbsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, divided
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh tarragon leaves, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 5 cups torn butter lettuce or butter lettuce mix
  • 3 cups pulled rotisserie chicken (from 1 chicken)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumber (from 1 cucumber)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes (about 5 radishes)

Procedure:

Process mayonnaise, chives, vinegar, anchovy paste, lemon zest, lemon juice, black pepper, 1⁄4 cup of the fresh parsley leaves, 1 tablespoon of the fresh tarragon leaves, and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the salt in a food processor until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.

Bring water, quinoa, and remaining 1⁄2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Stir and cover. Reduce heat to low, and cook until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Remove lid, and fluff with a fork.

Toss together butter lettuce and remaining 1⁄4 cup each fresh parsley leaves and fresh tarragon leaves. Toss lettuce mixture lightly with about 1⁄4 cup dressing. Transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle cooked quinoa over lettuce mixture; top with pulled rotisserie chicken. Arrange thinly sliced English cucumbers and thinly sliced radishes on top and around sides. Drizzle salad with an additional 1⁄4 cup dressing, and serve remaining dressing on the side, if desired.

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Weekly Winner: The Green Theme Continues … with Easy Peasy Soup

IMG_0435It appears I’m not quite done with my “Greening of the Menu”.  This is one big bowl of green! And while Spring Pea Soup with Spiced Cream is a welcome comfort on a cold rainy day, the peas, chives and swirl of cream hints that spring maybe… just maybe… is right around the corner.

The soup, which could not be easier to prepare, comes from Fine Cooking magazine and is ready in less than 30 minutes.  The only slightly unique ingredient is Za’atar, a spice blend that is available online, in spice shops, or at some better grocery stores.  There are also recipes online for making your own with spices and ingredients I guarantee you have in your pantry. The real magic of this soup is its simplicity, both in preparation and in flavor — there’s nothing to hide the taste of peas. The spiced sour cream is addictive!  Swirled in it combines with the warm soup to make is just slightly exotic tasting.

Spring Pea Soup with Spiced Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil; more for drizzling

1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 small clove garlic, very thinly sliced

5 to 5-1/2 cups shelled fresh English peas or frozen peas (no need to thaw)

Kosher salt

3/4 cup (6 oz) sour cream

1 1/2 tsp za’atar

Cayenne

1 lemon wedge (optional)

3 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh chives

Flaky sea salt

Procedure:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2-1/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the peas and 1-3/4 tsp kosher salt. Boil until the peas are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
  2. Transfer to a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth, adding water by the tablespoon to thin the soup if desired. Keep warm
  3. In a small bowl, stir the sour cream, za’atar, and a generous pinch each of cayenne and kosher salt.
  4. Taste the soup; if it seems a little flat, add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir.  Season to taste with salt.  Serve swirled with the spiced cream and sprinkled with the chives, sea salt, a pinch of cayenne and a drizzle of olive oil.

Weekly Winner: Sumptuous Saag (say what?)

IMG_0433I seem to be entering a “green” period with my cooking, and I’m not talking about eco-friendly, organic or anything like that. I’m talking color.  Everything I’ve been making is green!  This started a few entries back with my Broccoli Bolognese. Maybe it’s my yearning for a sign of green (aka spring) outside, but whatever the reason, I’m just warning you – you’ll be seeing a lot more green here in the coming weeks.

This week’s “greenery” comes in the form of a Saag.  Chicken Saag to be exact.  Prior to making this, the only saag I was familiar with was Saag Paneer which is a spinach-cheese curry dish from India.  So apparently “saag” is the spinach-curry part of the dish.  Call it what you want, but I’ll just call it dang tasty.  This recipe for Chicken Saag comes from Fine Cooking Magazine and is about as warm and cozy a dish as you could possibly ask for.  The green helps remind us that spring has to get here eventually.  But in the meantime, a nice warm bowl of this will help me survive.  My apologies to Kermit, but apparently it really is easy being green.

Chicken Saag

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

Kosher salt

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 2-inch piece ginger, minced

1/2 jalapeno, minced (about 1 Tbsp)

20 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and lightly squeezed of excess liquid

2 Tbsp finely chopped scallions

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Procedure:

  • In a medium bowl, combine the garam masala, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and 2 tsp salt.  Add the thighs and rub all over with the spice mixture.  Let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the thighs and cook, flipping once or twice, until just cooked through, 6-8 minutes (its okay if they stick a bit and tear because you’ll be cutting them into pieces). Transfer to a plate; they will cook more later.
  • If the pan looks dry, add a little more oil.  Then add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping up any bits, until the onion becomes translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute.  Add the spinach, scallions, and cream, and cook until the spinach is tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cut the thighs into 2-inch pieces.  Add them and any accumulated juice to the pot and stir.  Cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the chicken is fully cooked, about 3 minutes.  After that, the dish can sit on a low simmer for up to a half-hour and will only taste better for it.  Season to taste with salt. Add the cilantro, toss well.  Serve.

 

 

Weekly Winner: Stir(fry)ing up a Life-Changing Discovery

udon stir fryYou guys…. this is HUGE!  I recently discovered that frozen Asian noodles are … a thing!  I mean they exist!  And they’re awesome!!  Furthermore, a full-service Asian supermarket, H Mart, opened up in Chicago … right next door to a very good friend of mine.  Mind.  Blown.  This, friends… changes everything!!

I adore of any kind noodles (I’ve said it before and I’ll say in again), but if we’re talking about Asian noodles, without a doubt udon are my favorite.  I’ve noticed whenever I go to an Asian restaurant and order udon, they are absolutely divine. Chewy, thick, really something you can sink your teeth into.  However, when I try to recreate recipes at home with dried udon, I am always somewhat disappointed.  Frozen udon is the answer to my prayers!  Having stocked up on a ridiculously large quantity of them (they’re frozen!  they’ll keep forever!! they’re cheap!) I set out to find something to do with them.  Then I quickly remembered having pulled a recipe from Food Network Magazine for Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables, and off to work I went.

This is, perhaps, the most subtle dish I’ve ever made.  And by subtle, I definitely do not mean boring. There really are no standout flavors.  You can taste each ingredient and they are all bathed in a luscious, light, mushroom-broth-based sauce.  But winding its way through it all are those big, chewy, fabulous noodles.  Because the noodles cook up in minutes, this is a very quick, satisfying and tasty meal.  And while I suspect I’ll make this dish often, I now have a stash of amazing frozen noodles to experiment with.  I think it’s going to be a very “noodley” spring!

Stir-Fried Udon with Chicken and Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 18 to 20 ounces fresh or frozen udon noodles
  • 1/4 cup mushroom broth
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 small head napa cabbage, chopped into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced on an angle
  • 3 scallions (white and green parts separated), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced

Procedure:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, stirring the noodles with your hands. Set aside.

Mix the mushroom broth, sake, soy sauce, sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large liquid measuring cup; set aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet, then add the cabbage, carrot and scallion whites. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and the carrot is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Add the snow peas and garlic and stir-fry until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 more minutes. Add the noodles and stir-fry until dry and evenly combined, about 30 seconds.

Add the mushroom broth mixture and chicken to the skillet and cook, tossing, until the liquid is reduced and the noodles are coated, 1 to 2 more minutes; season with salt and pepper. Divide the noodles and vegetables among bowls and top with the scallion greens.

Weekly Winner: Silky, Sumptuous, Spring Soup

IMG_0426There is still absolutely no sign of spring here in Chicago.  I’m still wearing my parka and dreaming of the day I’ll be able to open up a window and let in some fresh air.  But just because it might not seem like spring outside doesn’t mean I can’t start eating like it’s spring. Spring produce has started to hit the market and to me, nothing says “spring” like asparagus.  The problem is I still need something to warm me up and chase away the chill that remains here. Cream of Asparagus Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms serves as the perfect bridge from winter to spring — which I’m hoping will arrive eventually!

This soup is absolutely luscious and very “fancy” tasting – like the kind of soup you order in a restaurant and then announce that you would like to bathe in the soup.  Oh wait, is that just me?  Sorry.  Seriously, this is an impressive soup!  The recipe comes from Cuisine at Home  and while it borders on “fussy” to prepare, the end product is totally worth it.

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Sautéed Mushrooms

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 (1 lb) bunch asparagus

2 Tbsp each unsalted butter and olive oil

8 oz button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 cup chopped leeks

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream and chopped chives for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Trim and discard woody ends from asparagus, chop stalks and reserve tips.  Blanch tips in a pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes; transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, then drain.
  2. Melt butter with oil in a pot over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper; sate until moisture is evaporated, 4-5 minutes.
  3. Transfer mushrooms to a plate using a slotted spoon; reduce heat to medium.  Add asparagus stalks and leeks; seat, partially covered, until softened, 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high.
  4. Deglaze pot with wine and cook until evaporated.  Stir in broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender, 10-12 minutes.
  5. Puree soup with a handheld blender or transfer to regular blender and puree
  6. Stir in cream, mushrooms, and Dijon; season soup with salt and pepper.  Top servings with soup cream, chives and asparagus tips.

 

Weekly Winner: For St. Patrick’s Day – “Green” Pasta?

IMG_0416As much as I enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day I am totally not a fan of the typical corned beef meal.  I’ll state it right here – I dislike Corned Beef!  So sue me.  Instead of going the traditional route, I decide to embrace the green.  Natural green that is, not food colored bread, beer or in the case of Friday night’s dinner pasta.  So what was for dinner?  Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette.

This dish actually makes broccoli feel decadent and luxurious.  Yes, there’s butter…. yes, there’s cheese…. yes, there’s pork (yay!) but overall this is veggie-heavy dish that tastes like a cheat meal.

The recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine. It’s relatively quick, it’s relatively easy, it’s relatively healthy and it is a wonderful substitute to corned beef in my book.

Broccoli Bolognese with Orecchiette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli (1¼–1½ pounds), cut into florets, stalk peeled and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 12 ounces fresh Italian sausage (about 3 links), casings removed
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving

Procedure:

  • Cook broccoli in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to a colander and let cool (save pot of water for cooking pasta). Chop broccoli into small pieces; set aside.

  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium. Cook garlic, shaking skillet occasionally, until it starts to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add sausage and a generous pinch of red pepper flakes and break up meat into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally and continuing to break up sausage, until it is browned and cooked through, 6–8 minutes.

  • Bring reserved pot of water to a boil and cook pasta until barely al dente, about 9 minutes (set a timer for 3 minutes less than the package instructions; it will cook more in the skillet).

  • Meanwhile, ladle about ½ cup pasta cooking liquid from pot into skillet with sausage and add blanched broccoli. Keep mixture at a low simmer, stirring often and mashing with spoon to break up sausage even more, until pasta is finished cooking.

  • Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta to skillet, then ladle in ½ cup pasta water. Cook, stirring, until pasta absorbs most of the liquid and is just al dente, about 4 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted, then transfer pasta to a large bowl. Gradually add 1½ oz. Parmesan, tossing constantly until you have a glossy, emulsified sauce.

  • Serve pasta topped with more Parmesan and red pepper flakes and a drizzle of oil.

Weekly Winner: Pretty(dang) Perfect Pork – With Pasta!

chinese porkMy love of pork knows no bounds.  I’m also pretty dang fond of noodles in any way, shape or form.  Put them together with a zingy little sauce and keep it all relatively low-calorie and healthy so that I can feel good about eating it, and I’ve found myself a “Winner, Winner, Piggy Dinner”!

Chinese Pork and Noodles comes from Food Network Magazine and has renewed my love with pork tenderloin.  I always think it’s the “safe” choice so I tend to look elsewhere – pork butt, chops, ribs, bacon.  Too often the tenderloin can be dry and not very flavorful.  The spiced hoisin marinade and glaze certainly takes care of that problem and the fact that it is the tenderloin makes it a cinch to prep and cook. I am officially back on the “tenderloin bandwagon”.

Chinese Pork and Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 pork tenderloin (1 to 1 1/4 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 heads baby bok choy (about 12 ounces), leaves separated
  • 8 ounces dried Chinese egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • Sliced scallions, for topping

Procedure:

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 475 degrees F. Set a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet; set aside. Mix the honey, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, ginger and five-spice powder in a small bowl. Cut the pork in half crosswise and prick all over with a fork; rub with 2 tablespoons of the honey-hoisin marinade, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Place on the wire rack.

Roast the pork until the surface looks dry, about 10 minutes. Remove 3 more tablespoons of the marinade to a separate bowl and brush all over the pork (save the remaining marinade for topping). Return to the oven and cook until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F, 16 to 18 more minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bok choy and boil until crisp-tender, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook as the label directs. Drain thoroughly, then toss with the sesame oil and season with salt.

Slice the pork. Divide the noodles among shallow bowls. Top with the pork and bok choy. Drizzle with the reserved honey-hoisin marinade and top with scallions.

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