Weekly Winner – Back in Balance…with bread!

My gluttonous moment has passed and I have put away all my gooey cheese, pasta, and pork products (temporarily, of course –everything in balance).  I am back to embracing salads and my favorite type of salad is one that includes bread.  I don’t care if its croutons or a roll on the side — I’m in.  My all-time favorite, however, is a panzanella salad.  What is better than crunchy bread brought back to life with a little dressing?  OK, yes, bacon… but we’re being virtuous this week, so work with me!!

There were a couple of things that caught my interest with this recipe for Chickpea Panzanella which I found in Cooking Light magazine.  First of course, was the chickpeas.  I adore chickpeas.  The other was the fact that this salad had artichoke hearts.  I cannot say I love artichoke hearts.  I didn’t think I hated them either.  Truth be told, with the exception of spinach artichoke dip, I just haven’t had much exposure to them.  I thought this would be an excellent time to try them out.  Everything else in this salad I know I adored so perhaps this would be the vehicle to win me over.  The salad was excellent.  The artichoke hearts?  Meh.  I can honestly say I would like the salad more without them.  Maybe next time I’ll swap them out for cucumbers or roasted peppers.  My husband can have his dislike for watercress, I apparently dislike artichoke hearts.

Chickpea Panzanella

Serves 5 – (seriously, that’s what they say!)

Ingredients:

1 (8-oz.) ciabatta loaf

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 (15-oz.) can unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 (8.5-oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Procedure:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove and discard crust from ciabatta; cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes or until toasted and golden.

Combine toasted bread, tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, feta, onion, and basil in a large bowl.

In a separate smaller bowl, combine oil, vinegar, oregano, pepper, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Pour over salad; toss to combine. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

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Weekly Winner:  Because You Can’t Always Be Good

For the most part I cook healthy food. My weekly repertoire consists of low-calorie, whole foods made from tons of veggies and lean meats with the rare exception of the occasional pork fest.  No processed foods, not a lot of fat (but come on, some!) and a healthy dose of all the right “super foods”.

But you know what?  Every once in a while you just gotta be bad. I’m not talking about three Big Macs and a couple of milk shakes kind of bad, I’m referring to heart-warming, soul-satisfying, ooey-gooey, cheesy bad. The kind of dish that restores your faith in humanity.  For me, that kind of dish is usually mac-n-cheese.  But just because I’ve decided to be bad (and be happy about it), that doesn’t mean I can’t dress up and “adultify” mac-n-cheese and transform it into something, dare I say, elegant?  Its spring and the asparagus (look, a vegetable!!!) is fabulous right now so lets add that along with a sophisticated pork-product (prosciutto) and put on our fancy jammies to enjoy this meal.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto is too good to be abbreviated and hyphenated.  This dish deserves to be called by its full name and eaten with reverence.  The recipe comes from Fine Cooking Magazine and is surprisingly a one-pot wonder.  No separate pan for a cheese sauce or even for a bechamel.  Nope, all you need here is one big ‘ol pot and the restraint to actually dish it out into separate bowls rather than diving in with the wooden spoon.  Not that I would ever do that. Because that would be bad.

Macaroni and Cheese with Asparagus and Prosciutto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

3/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

8 oz. elbow macaroni

2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3/4 cup evaporated milk (not fat-free)

2 large eggs

5 oz. Fontina, coarsely grated (about 1-3/4 cups)

1 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips

2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives

Freshly ground black pepper

Procedure:

Bring a 4-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. With a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the asparagus to a bowl, and keep warm.

Bring the water back to a boil, add the pasta, and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, whisk the evaporated milk, eggs, and 1/2 tsp. salt in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Add to the pasta, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts, another 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the asparagus, prosciutto, and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Weekly Winner:  A Divisive Dinner Where Pork is the Only Winner

So last night was not a total success.  I liked everything about dinner, but hubby… not so much.  I really can’t complain as he is willing to try darn near anything and has a very short list of things he absolutely does not like.  Apparently we now need to add watercress to that list. Who knew? The pork however, received thumbs up all around.

Orange Pork With Watercress Rice comes from Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I really didn’t think this was going to be risky new recipe to try. Basically stir-fried pork and rice with an Asian orange sauce. However, what makes this dish unique is also what made it not-so-stellar for my husband.  I am pretty sure I’ve served watercress before, but not in such heavy concentration — usually mixed with other greens and generally raw.  This time it was only wilted into the rice.  Let’s just say it was not well-received  The rest of the recipe will be repeated and I’ll simply find another green to swap in for the watercress.  Live and learn and try again!

Orange Pork With Watercress Rice

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup jasmine rice

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 cups coarsely chopped watercress, plus sprigs for serving

3 Tbsp safflower oil

1-1/4 lbs pork tenderloin, cut into 3/4-inch pieces and patted dry

1/2 cup finely julienned peeled ginger (from a 2-1/2 inch piece)

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2/3 cup orange marmalade

2 Tbsp fish sauce

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Procedure:

  1. Bring rice, 1-1/3 cups water, and 1/2 tsp salt to a boil in a saucepan.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 16 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Toss watercress with 1 Tbsp oil; season with salt.  Add to pan; let stand, covered 10 minutes.  Stir
  2. Season pork with salt.  Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add half of the ginger; cook until golden, 1 minute.  Let drain on paper towels.
  3. Add pork to skillet and brown, 3 to 4 minutes; then remove from pan.  Add remaining ginger and garlic to skillet; cook 30 seconds.  Add marmalade, fish sauce, and lime juice; bring to a boil, stirring, until syrupy, about 1 minute.  Return pork to pan; simmer 30 seconds.  Serve over rice, with watercress sprigs and crisp ginger.

Weekly Winner – Digging into a Big Bowl of Goodness

There is little I look forward to more than being able to curl up on the couch with my favorite evening show (or in my case, Cubs baseball) and eat dinner out of a big ‘ol bowl.  More often than not, however; the more comforting and satisfying said Bowl is to eat, the less healthy and virtuous it is to have consumed.  Not in this case. Today I present a big bowl of comfort, joy and about the healthiest thing you can eat for dinner.

I find myself eating like this more frequently than I have in the past.  Rather than a protein, veggie, starch, etc artfully displayed on a plate, I now enjoy throwing a bunch of goodness in a bowl, mixing it up and digging in!  Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas and Avocado has a bit of everything and keeps you happy and picking away until the very end.  The chickpeas and the avocado add perceived luxuriousness without any guilt.  Their creaminess is a nice contrast to all the fabulous crunch in this dish and it all of it comes together with a bright herby vinaigrette.  The recipe comes from Epicurious and while they gave a choice of grains to use in this dish, my go-to grain of choice is always farro and that’s what was used here.

Grain Bowls with Chicken, Spiced Chickpeas, and Avocado

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the chickpeas – 

2 tsp olive oil

1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, patted dry

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp kosher salt

For the dressing – 

1-1/2 cups parsley leaves

3/4 cup mint leaves

1-1/4 cups olive oil

6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

For the bowls – 

4 cups cooked quinoa, farro, barley or brown rice

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 mini seedless cucumbers, halved, sliced

2 avocados, halved, pitted, sliced

4 cups baby arugula

1@ cup pickled red onions

4 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Procedure:

Make the chickpeas – Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook chickpeas, cumin and cayenne, shaking to coat, until heated through.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, shaking occasionally, until chickpeas are golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels and season immediately with salt.

Make the dressing – Meanwhile, pulse parsley and mint in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add oil, lemon juice, honey, and salt and pulse to combine.

Assemble the bowls – Toss grains (farro in my case) with 1/2 cup dressing in a large bowl.  Divide among individual bowls.  Toss chicken with 1/4 cup dressing in the same large bowl.  Arrange chicken, cucumbers, avocados and arugula over farro.  Top with chickpeas, pickled onions, and sesame seeds.  Serve remaining dressing on side for drizzling.

Weekly Winner:  Punchy, Pungent Pasta

Dang, OK… its been a while.  Apparently life kind of got in the way of posting here but as of last night, I’m back and with a whopper of a dinner recipe.

A word of warning about this week’s entry:  Curry Noodles with Broccoli Rabe and Purple Cabbage is not for everyone.  This is one funky pasta dish!

If you are not a fan of bitter… you will not be a fan of this.  However, if you like spicy red curry paste, bitter broccoli rabe and tons of texture in your bowl of noodles, then run, don’t walk to make this dish.

The recipe comes from a new source for me, the PureWow website.  This is truly an adventure in a bowl.  The soft pasta is coated with spicy red curry paste that gets a hit of salt from soy sauce and some serious funk from fish sauce.  All that is mellowed a bit by the addition of coconut milk.  Then, you get some great bitter crunch from the broccoli rabe and the cabbage and a sweet bite of the shredded carrot.  OK, now that I’ve given you basically the entire ingredient list, you might as well go shopping, get the stuff and make this dish.  If you do, let me know what you think!  It got two enthusiastic thumbs up from this household.

Curry Noodles with Broccoli Rabe  and Purple Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients:

Noodles:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 bunches of scallions, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbsp red curry paste

1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup lime juice

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 Tbsp honey

12 oz spaghetti

Stir-fried veggies:

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

3 cups chopped broccoli rabe

2 cubs shredded purple cabbage

1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

Salt and pepper

Optional toppings:

1/2 bunch scallions, chopped

Sesame seeds, to taste

Procedure:

  1. FOR THE NOODLES:  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the scallions, ginger and garlic.  Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the curry paste and cool until it darkens slightly, about 1 minute.  Stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce and honey.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Continue to simmer while you cook the pasta.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook, according th the package directions.  Drain well and reserve.
  4. FOR THE STIR-FRY: In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli rabe and cabbage; sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes more.  Stir in the shredded carrot and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the spaghetti and vegetables to the sauce and toss well to combine.  Divide the noodles among four bowls and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.  Serve immediately.