Weekly Winner:  Another Fabulous Foray into Farro

Can I just say that farro rocks??  I am beginning to realize that I have a serious crush on this grain.  While it makes a perfectly fine side dish, I prefer to make it the star and that usually means some sort of grain salad that lets the farro shine.  This is that salad.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad comes from Fine Cooking and it is perfect for this time of year.  It can be eaten with the farro and chicken warm for a dinner as we did this week or chilled and taken to work for a hearty lunch.  I suspect I’ll be making this a lot in the coming months — for myself and for several of my clients.

Farro, Chicken and Grape Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

2 cups pearled farro, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp Asian (toasted) sesame oil

1-1/2 Tbsp minced jalapeño

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil

1-1/2 cups green seedless grapes, halved

1-1/2 cups small-diced seedless cucumber

1-1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Procedure:

  • In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the farro with enough water to cover.  Add 1/2 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the farro is tender but still slightly chewy, 15 to 18 minutes.  Drain.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the mirin, lemon juice, sesame oil, jalapeño, 1-1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.
  • Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, flipping once, until brown on both sides and just cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes total.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  • Add the chicken and any accumulated juice, the farro, grapes cucumber and dill to the vinaigrette.  Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
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Weekly Winner:  Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner! Part 2

I was not terribly familiar with the term “kofta” before making this recipe.  I thought it was some sort of kebab or little meatloaf, but that was the extent of my knowledge.  Come to find out it can actually be either — or a meatball or patty.  And seriously, who doesn’t like a patty of meat?  Be it a slider, burger, ball or loaf, there is just something about it that makes people happy.  Generally, when I think of any of the aforementioned patties, chicken almost never comes to mind.  Beef?  Lamb?  You bet.  But chicken? Call me skeptical.

Chicken Kofta with Pomegranate Rice might just be the dish to change my mind.  Treated correctly, and combined with the right ingredients, chicken can actually make a tender, juicy, and very healthy patty.  Who knew?? The recipe comes from Real Simple and it is exactly that.

This is one of those dishes that smells fabulous while cooking and gets even better once you sit down and tuck into it.  Everything just goes together perfectly.  The super savory yellow rice, the amazingly tender Mediterranean-spiced chicken, the tangy yogurt, the surprising burst of the pomegranate and the crisp crunch of the cucumber.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bit of everything in each bite.  If not – just keep eating until you do!

Chicken Kofta with Pomegranate Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients

2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 lb ground chicken

1-2/3 tsp ground cumin

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

1Tbsp water

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

4 cups cooked yellow rice

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup chopped English cucumber

Procedure:

  • Stir together the yogurt and salt.  Combine the chicken, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mixture in a medium bowl.  Shape into 8 (3-inch long) oval patties
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium.  Cook the patties, turning occasionally until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes
  • Stir the water and lemon juice into the remaining yogurt mixture.  Toss together the rice and pomegranate seeds. Serve patties with the rice; top with the yogurt sauce and cucumber.

Weekly Winner:  Terrificly Tasty Tagine

I’ve had this recipe laying on the kitchen counter literally for weeks.  I’ve had it “slated” for various Sunday suppers and even one or two weeknight dinners, but something has always come up to thwart me.  I had everything I needed on hand to make it, it just never happened.  That is until this past Sunday.

I had a feeling this was going to be good.  Little did I realize just how good Moroccan Pork Tagine would be.  This was amazing!  Every bite was a bit different depending on what combination of pork, chickpeas, raisins, couscous or olives you got.  It didn’t really matter because each bite was fantastic.

The recipe comes from Cuisine at Home and while it may not be a traditional tagine recipe, the flavors and spices come together to make it taste very Moroccan.  I’m glad I finally got to try this recipe — don’t be like me and keep put it off — make this very soon.

Moroccan Pork Tagine with Chickpeas and Raisins

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb. pork tenderloin

1 1/2 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, and sweet paprika

1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and kosher salt

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp each unsalted butter and olive oil

2 cups sliced onions

1 Tbsp each minced fresh ginger and garlic

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14-oz can diced tomatoes in juice

3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Procedure:

  1. Trim fat and sliverskin from tenderloin.  Cut tenderloin into 1-inch cubes; toss with cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, salt and pepper flakes.
  2. Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and cook until browned, 6-7 minutes.  Stir in tenderloin, garlic, ginger and tomato paste; cook until tenderloin is browned on all sides, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Deglaze skillet with wine and reduce until nearly evaporated.  Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas, broth, and raisins and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer stew until thickened, 7-8 minutes.
  4. Serve on Couscous (recipe follows) and garnish with almonds.

Couscous Pilaf with Olives and Lemon

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous

1 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives

1 Tbsp each minced lemon zest and lemon juice

Procedure:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add couscous and cook until toasted, 2 minutes.  Stir in garlic and salt; cook 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and cook until broth is absorbed and couscous is al dente, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in olives, zest, and lemon juice

Weekly Winner:  Restaurant-Worthy Gnocchi that Anyone (yes, even you) Can Make.

On Friday I made what was quite possibly the most restaurant-quality meal I have ever made.  If I had ordered this Ricotta Gnocchi with Summer Herbs in a restaurant I would have shook my head and said “this is why they’re the professionals. No one can do this at home.”  Not that I haven’t made gnocchi before. I’ve even written about it here.  That time it was a bit of an ordeal. It took serious time, a bit of technique, and quite a mess to get it even reasonably good.  Not this time.

Thanks to Food and Wine and the incredible “hack” that was revealed to make this, seriously anyone can make this dish.  And you should!!  If you can dump stuff in a food processor and squeeze a bag, you can make this.  Literally, it is as easy as boiling water, because that is the only cooking you’ll need to do.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Summer Herbs

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

2 cups fresh ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus more for sprinkling

Freshly ground pepper

Snipped chives, chopped parsley and small basil leaves, for garnish

Procedure:

  1. Tie a length of thin kitchen twine tightly across a large, two-handled saucepan. Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. Add a generous pinch of salt.
  2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the ricotta with the egg and cheese until smooth; scrape down the side of the bowl as necessary. Add the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and pulse until just incorporated.
  3. Scrape the gnocchi dough into a large sturdy resealable plastic bag; press the dough into a corner of the bag to remove as much air as possible, then snip off the corner to make a 1/2- to 3/4-inch opening.
  4. Using steady pressure and working over the pot of simmering water, pipe out 1/3 of the gnocchi dough into 3/4-inch pieces, using the twine to cut them into the saucepan. Simmer until the gnocchi rise to the surface, then continue simmering until they’re plumped and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough in 2 batches.
  5. Transfer the gnocchi to a platter. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon zest and gently toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil, grated lemon zest, snipped chives, chopped parsley and small basil leaves. Serve right away.