Friday, June 16, 2017

Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad


This is the perfect summer meal -- fresh, light, and packed with different textures.  I used carrots, cucumber, and avocado in my salad, but you can really use any vegetable that's good raw -- snow peas or thinly sliced cabbage or kale would be great too.  What brings this salad from good to great is a healthy handful of fresh herbs -- again, a mix is ideal, but you can choose your favorites or select what looks freshest at the store.  Don't skip peanuts on top -- they add great crunch.  If you'd like more protein, some shredded rotisserie chicken on top is a great addition.


Fresh Veggie Noodle Salad (adapted from the Kitchn)
Serves 2-3

For the dressing:
3 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
2 T lime juice
2 tsp honey
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sambal oelek or Asian chile-garlic paste
1 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger

For the salad:
4 ounces rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions and rinsed under cold water
1 large carrot, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled
1 avocado
A handful of mixed fresh herbs, roughly chopped (I used Thai basil, mint, and a scallion)
1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Make the vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Make the salad: Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain and rinse under cold water until fully chilled.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Create long ribbons of carrot using a vegetable peeler, or grate.  Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and thinly slice.  Cube the avocado.  Add the vegetables to the noodles, along with all the fresh herbs, and toss to combine.

Add about half the dressing and toss to combine.  Taste, and add more dressing as desired.  Serve topped with chopped peanuts and more dressing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Watermelon Agua Fresca

This drink is super bright and fresh -- it just screams summer!  Make sure to choose a good, flavorful melon, because it's such a simple drink.  Fresh watermelon juice is dressed up with a little sugar and lime juice, but otherwise it's just watermelon all the way -- so refreshing!  Technically you can skip the strainer if you don't have one, but personally I prefer a smoother drink.  This keeps well in the fridge for a day or two if you'd like to make it ahead.  You can also add a little tequila or vodka if you want to serve it as a cocktail.


Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted from the New York Times)

4 cups cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups water
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T sugar
Mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Combine the watermelon, water, lime juice, and sugar in a blender and blend until very smooth.  Pass through a fine mesh strainer.  Taste and add more water or sugar if you like.  Pour over ice and garnish with mint.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls

This is another recipe that uses the Instant Pot to good effect, although you can certainly prepare it without one (see the instructions linked below).  This salad would also be a great use for any leftover BBQ meat you have on hand.  The BBQ chicken is livened up with fresh, crunchy kale, bell pepper, and sweet corn.   This is a great way to enjoy barbecue that's a bit lighter and fresher.  Although the recipe calls for buttermilk ranch dressing, and I think that's a great combination, it doesn't happen to be my favorite -- if you're like me, a mild blue cheese dressing or another creamy dressing (or even just oil and vinegar) works just as well.


BBQ Chicken Salad Bowls (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 4

For the chicken:
Olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup BBQ sauce, plus more to finish (optional)
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the salad:
2 ears of corn
1/2 T unsalted butter
Salt
1 large bunch of kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 bell pepper, trimmed and thinly sliced
Buttermilk ranch dressing (homemade or strore-bought)

1. To prepare the chicken in the Instant Pot, heat a generous drizzle of olive oil using the "Saute" function.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute for several minutes, until well softened and starting to brown . Add the smoked paprika and salt and stir to combine.  Turn off the Instant Pot, add the BBQ sauce, and stir well to combine.  Add the chicken thighs, stir until the sauce coats them, and arrange in a single layer. Seal the lid, and press the "Poultry" button.  Alternately, follow these directions from the Kitchn to prepare the chicken in the oven.
2. Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, and shred into bite-sized pieces.  Add more sauce as desired.  
3. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.  Shuck the corn and cut it off the cob.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then add the fresh corn and cook for just a few minutes, until tender.  Season with a bit of salt.
4. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add a generous pinch of salt, and then massage until tender and reduced in size (a minute or two).  In a separate bowl, toss together the carrots and bell pepper.
5. To assemble the bowls, start with a base layer of kale.  Top with the carrot-pepper mixture, and then drizzle with buttermilk ranch dressing.  Add corn and shredded chicken to finish the bowl.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Lentil-Vegetable Soup


This soup is sort of like half vegetable soup (carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale), and half lentil soup (with both red lentils and brown or green lentils).  The brown lentils keep their shape better when cooked, while the red lentils almost dissolve in the soup and give it a creamier texture.  Overall, the soup is warm and comforting - perfect for a chilly evening.  I used a really tasty spice blend from Penzey's that has both lemon and orange peel, and smells amazing.  But, you can use any favorite spice/herb blend -- I think curry would be pretty fantastic too.  The original recipe calls for pureeing part of the soup for a creamier texture -- I skipped this, and still thought the soup was excellent, but you can add this step if you prefer a smoother soup.  Definitely don't skip the lemon juice at the end -- it brightens things up and really brings the flavors together.


Lentil-Vegetable Soup (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)

2 T vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 tsp Mural of Flavor spice mix (or any other favorite spice blend)
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or more to taste)
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup brown or green lentils
1/2 cup red lentils
3 cups chopped kale leaves
Juice of 1 lemon

To serve: grated Parmesan and crusty bread

1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrots, sweet potato, celery, and garlic, and stir to combine.  Cook for 6-8 minutes, until softened.  Add the spice mix, Aleppo pepper, and salt, and stir to combine.
2. Stir in the chicken broth and lentils.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for about half an hour, or until everything is tender.  Turn off the heat, and stir in the kale and lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
3. Serve topped with grated cheese and crusty bread.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Buffalo Mac and Cheese


The Kitchen is probably my favorite Food Network show, and a while back they made Buffalo chicken mac and cheese.  It looked amazing, so I adapted my usual mac and cheese recipe to include all the flavors -- blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, rotisserie chicken, and panko on top for crunch.  The sauce is super creamy and just a little spicy.  Totally addictive!


Buffalo Mac and Cheese (inspired by Food Network's The Kitchen)
Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup crumbled blue cheese, divided
1/4 cup Buffalo sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste
2 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 cup panko

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put on a big pot of water to boil. When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done. (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time)
3. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, using a silicone-coated whisk to protect the coating on the pan.  When the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, cook for another 30 seconds or so.  The sauce should be thick and just bubbling.  Remove from the heat.
5. Stir in the grated Monterey Jack cheese, half the blue cheese, Buffalo sauce, and mustard.  Taste, and add a little salt if necessary.  Stir over low heat until everything is melted.
6. Add the pasta, shredded chicken, and reserved blue cheese to the sauce, and stir until combined.
7. Scrape the pasta into a 9x13 baking dish.  Sprinkle with the panko.  Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the panko is lightly browned.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

Carbonara is one of my husband's favorite pasta dishes, and since we had extra prosciutto and Parmesan after our recent Italian breakfast, it made for a perfect easy dinner.  Although prosciutto isn't the most common pork product you see in carbonara recipes, it ended up working really well -- the flavor is amazing and it got nicely crisp in a little hot oil on the stove top.  The key to a creamy sauce (instead of scrambled eggs) is just to work quickly as you toss the hot noodles into the raw egg-and-cheese sauce.  Make sure to save some of the cooking water from the pasta -- you can add it a little at a time if the pasta looks too dry. 


Carbonara with Crispy Prosciutto

12 ounces spaghetti or another long, thin pasta
1-2 T olive oil
3 ounces or so thinly sliced prosciutto, sliced into thin ribbons
A handful of frozen peas, thawed
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 cup (or so) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with a little salt.  When it boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta water before draining.

While the pasta water boils, heat the olive oil in a skillet until shimmering.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring often, until it starts to get a little crispy.  Add the peas, stir to combine, and keep warm on very low heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, Parmigiano Reggiano, and pepper.  

Drain the pasta, and immediately transfer it to the bowl with the egg-cheese mixture.  Working quickly, toss everything together with tongs.  Add some of the reserved pasta water as needed to make a creamy sauce.  Stir in the prosciutto-pea mixture, taste, and adjust for seasoning.  Serve hot.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Italian Breakfast and Pizza

Last year this time we were in Italy, so we decided to recreate the wonderful breakfasts we enjoyed there: chocolate and almond croissants from Trader Joe's (surprisingly good!), Prosciutto di Parma, soppressata, Parmigiano Reggiano, buffalo mozzarella, bread, jam, fruit, and espresso.  Glorious!  Definitely a splurge, but so worth it.


Because I bought far too much meat and cheese, we had plenty of leftovers.  We used some of them on the pizza below, which has homemade basil-pecan pesto, buffalo mozzarella, and soppressata as toppings -- so good!


Basil-Pecan Pesto

1/2 cup pecans
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup + 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Pinch of salt (more to taste)

1. Place the nuts and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper, and process until they just start to break down.  Add the cheese and pulse another few times.
2. Add the basil and pulse a few times.  Then add the oil, lemon juice, and salt, and pulse until the pesto is as chunky/smooth as you like it.  Taste and add more of anything to make things taste perfect!