Archive for the 'entree' Category

26
Aug
11

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas

The other day I came to a realization.  After one year of juggling full-time employment and mommyhood, trying to keep a garden, cook great meals, keep this blog, write fantastic stories at work — I was nearly burned out. Cooking and gardening — both sources of relaxation — had become drudgery. This blog had become an after thought. And work was getting frustrating.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time doing nothing. As a result, some nights we have frozen pizza for dinner. And some weekends, the house gets pretty darn gross. But you know what? That’s OK.

For the next month or two you’ll see fewer blog posts. Not that I’ve been blogging much this summer.  If I find a recipe or revisit and old one that I can’t resist sharing, you will find it here. Otherwise, know that I’m hitting the reset button.

I couldn’t help but share these tostadas that are a perennial favorite around here. I found this recipe in 2007 when Jeff was living in Houston. We picked up recipe cards anytime we were at Central Market or Whole Foods, and a few of them were good enough to make year after year. I made these again last weekend when my parents were in town.

The combination of flavors and textures are really quite incredible. The black bean and avocado mixture could be eaten alone or as a dip. Feta cheese isn’t exactly Mexican, but with the rest of these ingredients it’s absolutely amazing.

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas
Whole Foods Market

1 large ripe avocado
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed
2 green onions, chopped
hot sauce, such as Tobasco
2 cooked chicken breast halves, shredded
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
additional lime juice
4 tostada shells or fresh corn tortillas
2 cups shredded lettuce, such as iceburg
2/3 cup crumbled feta
Salsa, preferably chipolte

In a small bowl, combine shredded chicken, tomato, cilantro and cumin. Season to taste with a squeeze of lime juice.

In a separate, medium bowl, mash the avocado with the 4 teaspoons of lime juice until almost smooth. Mix in beans and green onions. Season to taste with hot sauce.

Arrange tostada shells on plates. Top with lettuce, guacamole, and chicken mixture. Sprinkle with feta, spoon salsa over, and serve.

Serves 4.

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02
Jun
11

Macadamia Encrusted Mahimahi with Mango Salsa

Daniel got married in Maui a few weeks ago and sent us these amazing macadamia nuts. Now that it’s nearly impossible to spend more than 2 hours on an airplane (due to our squirmy little G), we’ve been invited this year to weddings in San Diego, Malaysia, Peru and Maui. I was musing about this on Facebook recently when Daniel chimed in, trying to entice me even more with macadamia nuts. As if an ocean and the beach weren’t enough, along with some amazing Kona coffee, frozen grapes and an oceanside maitai.

Since we’re stuck here for a while, Daniel sent us macadamias and some Kona coffee. It was a lovely thing to do, especially considering how crazy things are the week of a wedding. I’d forgotten how much I love super fresh macadamias. They reminded Jeff and me of our honeymoon six years ago, when were zipping around the Big Island in a convertible, sun burnt,  munching on macadamias and Hawaiian bread. How I wish we could have been at Daniel and Marianne’s wedding.

Instead, Jeff and I made this encrusted mahimahi with mango salsa. The flavors were very Hawaii and very delicious, but  nevertheless  a distant second to a wedding in Maui.

Yet this was so good that I made it twice last month.

The recipe is fairly simple. Marinate the fish in lime juice, but be sure not to let the fish soak for more than one to two hours. Coat the fish in butter, dip in a mixture of panko, chopped macadamias and cilantro, and then bake until crispy. YUM! The mango salsa is incredible with it.

Macadamia Encrusted Mahimahi with Mango Salsa
Bon Appetit, June 1991

1 10-ounce mahimahi fillet (1 inch thick), skinned, halved crosswise
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Place mahimahi in shallow dish. Pour lime juice over. Marinate 1 hour, and no more than two hours, turning fish over occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine panko and next 3 ingredients in small bowl. Mix in 2 tablespoons butter. Season generously with pepper. Pour remaining 2 tablespoons butter into shallow baking dish. Remove mahimahi from marinade and place in baking dish, turning to coat with butter. Spoon panko mixture atop fish, dividing evenly. Press topping gently to adhere. Bake until fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

Serves 2.

Mango Salsa
Bon Appetit, September 1998

2 cups chopped pitted peeled mango (if you’ve never diced a mango, consult this online tutorial)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 teaspoons olive oil

Mix everything in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

29
May
11

Spring Asparagus Stir Fry

This is the first weekend in two months that isn’t dominated by something pressing.  Our hardwood floors are now refinished. The furniture is moved back in, the books finally back on bookshelves, and the china in the china cabinet. Our nine-hour drive to visit my grandmother in central Kansas is over. We’ve spent a few days with my parents on the other side of the state. And then Jeff’s folks came. Not to mention, work has been INSANE juggling end-of-school-year stories and breaking news in urban education.

On Saturday, Gabi and I went to the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market and stocked up on asparagus.  Every spring Jeff and I crave green veggies so much that we nearly overdose on asparagus. We’re headed in that direction once again. Last weekend, I made stir-fried asparagus with oyster sauce for Jeff’s parents, and it was as delish as ever. Last night, I revisited this incredible asparagus stir fry I’d found on Heidi Swanson’s foodblog, 101cookbooks.com, and first tried three weeks ago. If you haven’t been to her site, it’s wonderful. So is her new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. More on that later this week.

This stir fry has a little of everything as far as flavor goes. The asparagus and tofu dominate. Then you have heat from the ginger and crushed red pepper flakes, sweetness from the hoison sauce, tang from the lime zest and juice. Cashews provide texture, and mint and basil round it out. Hoison, by the way, is a thick sweet sauce widely used in Chinese cooking.

There are many things I love about Heidi Swanson’s recipes. The first is that they always make me feel good. The second is that you can easily mix and match ingredients without being too worried about it.

At the market, I bought a few handfuls of this tatsoi, with the intention of using it instead of chard or spinach. Tatsoi is a mild Asian green. It looks like a cross between bok choy and spinach, and works really well in stir fries.

Continue reading ‘Spring Asparagus Stir Fry’

01
May
11

Roasted Red-Curry Salmon with Green Beans

I’ve become a slacker lately when it comes to weeknight meals. I could spend the next few sentences explaining why — valid excuses, considering how much I’ve been working lately — but really it’s because of this: I’m tired!!!  And when I’m tired, we eat leftovers all week! You can relate? You know how it feels to spend days eating jarred pasta sauce and frozen meals?

Last week, this recipe got us out of the weeknight rut. I found it in Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook– a tome filled with simple and fresh meals. Many of them are so simple they feel like cheating. This salmon takes less time than boiling water. I made it twice, after working 10 hour- plus days. I came home exhausted and in need of something healthy.

There’s a fair degree of heat to this dish because of the red curry paste. The paste is a Thai staple made from a concentration dried red chile, garlic, shallot, lemongrass and a few other spices. Like soy sauce, there are winners and losers when it comes to the packaged stuff. If you have an international market near you, look for Mae Ploy. Otherwise, use what’s available. Once you whisk the curry paste with lime juice and vegetable oil, you coat the salmon with the mixture. Then toss green beans and slices of red bell pepper with a bit of oil and salt. Place the salmon and veggies on the same sheet pan and roast for 12 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped basil and mint. That’s it. It couldn’t be easier.

Is this dinner party quality? I say no, but you be the judge. On a weeknight, it’s fast, easy and healthy. And it certainly is better than jarred pasta sauce.

Roasted Red-Curry Salmon with Green Beans
Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook

4 6-ounce salmon fillets (each about 1 1/2 inches thick)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
8 ounces green beans, trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cut into long strips
1 generous tablespoon thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1 generous tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spay a heavy rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray, or lightly grease with vegetable oil. Place fish on half of prepared baking sheet. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the oil, lime juice, and curry paste in a small bowl. Spread the mixture over the salmon. Toss green beans and bell pepper in a medium bowl with remaining 1 teaspoon oil. Arrange green beans and pepper on other half of the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt.

Roast in oven until fish is just opaque in center and veggies are crisp tender, about 12 minutes. Put fish on plates and veggies next to the salmon. Sprinkle mint and basil on top. Serve with lime wedges.

Serves 4

18
Apr
11

Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Couscous and Mint Gremolata

The plan Saturday was to get through a gigantic to-do list: a jewelry party, playing with Gabi, getting Gabi’s haircut, running three miles, cleaning the kitchen, exchanging a shirt, and replacing the dead pansies in one of the window boxes. I accomplished half of it — no small feat when you have a scrumptious and distracting toddler.

Amazingly, she went down for a morning nap (we thought the morning naps had ended), so I took advantage of the quiet and made this stew. I’d intended to make it last weekend. But the sun was out and we spent hours at the park instead. But this past Saturday was dreary — perfect cooking weather.

Now about this stew. I come back to it year after year, and for good reason. It’s an aromatic combination of tomato, leeks, carrots, chickpeas, green peas, spinach and couscous. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when I need to throw something together for someone who doesn’t eat meat or dairy. It’s fairly quick to make, but has layers of flavor. It’s incredibly healthy. It’s incredibly hearty. It’s nothing short of amazing.

It calls for saffron, a warm spice commonly found in Spanish and Mediterranean dishes. Saffron is pricey, so good thing that a little goes a long way. The additional combination of cinnamon, ground ginger and red chili flakes is what makes this stew so wonderful. The gremolata — finely chopped garlic, parsley, mint and lemon zest — adds freshness. Don’t skip it.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Couscous and Mint Gremolata
Simple Meals by Organic Style, Summer 2003

Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch diagonals
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
Large pinch saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 pound spinach, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped

Couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup plain couscous
1 teaspoon salt

Gremolata
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

To make the stew:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, 5 quarts or so, over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 or 8 minutes. Watch so they don’t burn.

Add the tomato paste and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in carrots, tomatoes, saffron, crushed red pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Add the beans, salt, pepper, and 1 3/4 cups of water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the peas and spinach, and cook uncovered for another 2 minutes, just until the spinach is wilted. (Can be made a few hours ahead of time. Anything more than that, the peas and spinach will not be bright green.)

To make the couscous:

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and stir until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.Meanwhile, bring 1 1/3 cups of water to a boil. Sprinkle salt over couscous. Pour water over couscous and cover. Let the couscous stand for 5 minutes, until the water is absorbed.

Make the gremolata:

Combine the finely chopped mint, parsley, garlic and lemon zest in a small bowl.

Assemble:

Divide the stew evenly among 4 shallow bowls. Dish couscous into the center of each bowl (a half-cup measure works wonders). Sprinkle gremolata over each bowl of stew.

Serves 4

04
Apr
11

Butter Chicken

It takes a lot of will power to resist butter chicken. Far more will power than I have. In a nutshell, I made this on Sunday for the second time in a week, and I very rarely do that. We had it for dinner last night, I had a bit after work for a snack. Gabi took her little spoon and ate a plateful for dinner this evening. Her face smeared orange with sauce, she tapped her little fingers together demanding “Mo?”

Twenty-four hours later, this double batch of butter chicken is about gone. Good homemade Indian food is one of life’s best pleasures. The smells of the spices, the complexities of sweet, sour, spicy. If you’ve never had butter chicken, it’s very much like chicken tikka malsala, one of the most common dishes Americans order at Indian restaurants. The chicken is marinated for a few hours in spiced yogurt, then roasted.

The sauce is velvety and rich, a creamy tomato gravy that  involves heating butter and sauteing garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cumin, mace, cardamom pods, chili powder. You strain the mixture into a bowl, puree the solids, then strain it again. The first time, I added about 1/4 cup of the solids to the strained sauce and preferred the flavor intensity to what I made Sunday, which was just the strained sauce. You put the sauce back on the heat, then stir in dried fenugreek leaves, cream and honey. Mmmmmmm mmmm!

A word about ingredients: this recipe and others you’ll see on this site from time to time call for ginger and garlic paste. It’s available at most international markets and will keep in your refrigerator forever. If you can’t find it, you could substitute by finely chopping 10 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons minced ginger and a teaspoon of water in a mini-food processor. Whir until a paste-like consistency forms. It’s not a perfect substitute, but in this case the paste is only needed for the marinade. This substitute should work.

For the roasting, I used metal skewers. Wooden ones require soaking, and why do the extra work if you don’t need to?

Continue reading ‘Butter Chicken’

20
Mar
11

Roasted Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

We’re out of the woods as far as winter goes. Our first daffodil bloomed three days ago. My chives are peaking over the lips of their flower pots. And today it was too hot for sweaters, or even jeans. But I’m still in winter mode when it comes to cooking. Something roasted and warm with a little heat is what sounds good right now.

This duck recipe is a fusion of  sweetness and heat: the Middle East meets Mexico. This sauce is seriously amazing. It’s a little like barbecue sauce. It would be amazing with pork. It’s one my favorite finds this winter, so I really smothered the duck with it. Jeff deserves full credit for finding this one — he first made it for dinner a few weeks ago. I made it again because it is so delicious.

The beauty of this: the sauce requires the most work, and it can be made well in advance. Searing and roasting the duck takes no time at all. It’s elegant and fairly easy. Definitely a show stopper.

Roasted Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit, Dec. 2009

Sauce:

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (such as Pom)
1 3/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 large dried California chiles,* stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo**
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt

Duck:
8 5-to 6-ounce boneless duck breast halves, skin and fat trimmed to size of breast
Coarse kosher salt
Ground coriander
Fresh pomegranate seeds (Trader Joe’s sells them packaged)

For sauce:
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes (watch closely). Add juice, broth, and  chiles to the pan. Boil until sauce is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Puree in tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Whisk in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin. Season to taste with generous amount of coarse salt and pepper. The sauce can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over low heat before using.

For duck:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Score skin of duck (don’t cut into flesh) with 5 cuts in 1 direction; repeat in opposite direction, making diamond pattern. Sprinkle duck all over with coarse salt, pepper, and ground coriander. Place 2 large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat. Add duck, skin side down, to skillets, dividing equally. Cook duck until skin is crisp and deep brown, about 7 minutes. Turn duck over; cook 1 minute. Pour off fat. Transfer skillets to oven. Roast duck until cooked to medium rare, about 5 minutes.

Transfer duck to cutting board. Let rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice each breast crosswise on slight diagonal. Arrange slices on plates. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

* Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.

** Dried, smoked jalapeños in a spicy tomato sauce called adobo; available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Latin markets.




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