Monthly Archives: January 2012

Chicken Saltimbocca & Sauteed Haricots Verts with Shallots

Chicken. Proscuitto. Sage. Squeezed lemon. Haricots verts. Shallots. Zest. Sounds fancy doesn’t it? Go ahead, let your husband/girlfriend/roommate/Mom/neighbor/schnauzer think so. The truth? This dish is ridiculously easy to make. Certainly easier to make than it is to say…chicken saltimBOCCA! And the green beans totally seal the deal for me. They’re pretty much the most exciting green beans (sorry….haricots verts) I’ve ever eaten. Plus, they involve shallots, which currently fascinate me–they’re in bulbs with cloves just like garlic and yet taste like mild onion. What’s up with that? Fascinating. If you’re currently in a chicken, steamed broccoli, and brown rice rut (or salmon,  spinach, and sweet potato as the case may be–trust me, I’ve been there) I’ve got your weeknight solution right here. No reservation necessary.

Chicken Saltimbocca

Ingredients
4 4-6oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
12 pieces of fresh sage
2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto (enough for 8 strips–2 per piece of chicken)
extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about one squeezed lemon)
1/2 tsp cornstarch

Preparation
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet. Wrap 2 pieces of prosciutto around each one, securing the sage in place. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp oil. Place chicken in pan and cook on each side until done (2 to 5 minutes per side). You may need to do this in 2 batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Add additional oil between batches, if necessary. Remove chicken from pan to plate and tent with foil.

In a bowl, combine broth, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Add to pan and bring to a boil, stirring with the whisk constantly. Cook until slightly thickened–about 1 minute. Spoon sauce over chicken or serve on the side.

Source: Cooking Light

Sauteed Haricots Verts with Shallots 

Ingredients
1 pound haricots verts or string beans, ends removed
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, minced
salt and pepper
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Preparation
Blanch the haricots verts: Place in a large pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes (until they turn bright green–string beans may take longer). Drain and place immediately in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

Return pan to stove on medium-high heat. Add butter and olive oil. Once butter is melted, saute the shallots until they turn brown–2 to 5 minutes. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots. Saute, tossing well, until beans are hot. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

Source: Barefoot Contessa

 

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Minestrone Soup (in the Slow Cooker!)

Will someone please put this argument to rest once and for all: Fifty percent of the people who ate this meal (me) think it’s pronounced minestrone (no eeeeeeeeee) while the other fifty percent of the people who ate this meal (achem, Robert) think it’s pronounced minestroneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Anyone? Anyone? Maybe Giada could weigh in.

No matter what you call it, I was pretty darn pleased with how this soup turned out.  I’m no stranger to minestrone soup, but this was the first time I ever made it in the slow cooker. Why that’s awesome: It allowed me to use dried beans (so much better for you than the sodium-laden kind that come in a can crawling with the endocrine-disrupting chemical BPA), but without babysitting a pot on the stove for three or more hours. Slow cooker recipes rock for that very reason–lifting the lid disrupts the cooking process (because it allows steam to escape) so it practically forces you to spend your misty Sunday doing other things for about seven hours. Some suggestions for how to pass the time: Develop an obsession with Pinterest (I think I need a Pintervention) and watch Midnight in Paris. Just in case you were wondering.

Lately, I’ve been making a big pot of soup on Sundays and eating it for lunch throughout the week–an easy and delicious way to gobble up a heap of veggies at one time. As a matter of fact, I’m going to warm up a bowl of this minestrone right now. Mmmmmm.

Minestrone Soup (in the Slow Cooker!)

Ingredients
1 onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1  (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried cannellini beans (directions for soaking below)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 cup small pasta such as mini elbows
salt and pepper

Preparation
To soak the beans: Place 1 cup of dried beans in a bowl and cover with water so water comes several inches above beans. Leave bowl, uncovered, out overnight. Drain before using.

To make the soup: Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until onion is softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can place onion, garlic, oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.) Whichever method you choose, once onion has softened, transfer mixture to slow cooker.

Add broth, tomatoes, soaked and drained beans, and carrots into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 5 to 7 hours.

Stir in zucchini, chard, and pasta. Cover and cook on high until vegetables are tender and pasta is cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Slow Cooker Revolution

Chicken with Broccoli and Bamboo Shoots

I should probably warn you that you’ll be seeing lots of stir-fries around here from now on. That’s because not only did Robert give me a wok as part of my Christmas gift, he also surprised me with TWO stir-fry cookbooks this week. When deciding what to make this weekend I knew I wanted to try one of the recipes. But where to start? I went right for my favorite–chicken with broccoli. It’s what I almost always order at Chinese restaurants, but have never attempted to make on my own. Frankly, I didn’t even realize that chicken with broccoli was a stir-fry. But it is–and it’s so easy to make.

From previous experiences, I’ve learned that your best bet when making stir-fry is to prep everything beforehand (measure liquids, cut veggies and meat, etc.) since everything cooks so quickly once you turn up the heat. It turns out that I am no genius. When reading about stir-fry techniques in the fronts of my new cookbooks, both mention doing exactly this. It even has a fancy French name (which makes me extra happy):  Mise en place–having all of the ingredients prepared and ready before you start cooking.

What I love so much about stir-fries is that it takes the normal healthy ingredients that I tend to cook with–fresh veggies and lean proteins–and cranks things up about 20 notches with punchy and exciting sauces. This recipe does just that plus adds the wonderful crunchy/chewy texture of bamboo shoots. Even better: The leftovers taste just as good as those that come out of white takeout containers the next day and there’s not a drop of MSG in sight.

Chicken with Broccoli and Bamboo Shoots
Serves 3 to 4

Ingredients
1.5 pounds broccoli, stems removed and florets cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (I didn’t have either so I used red wine)
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp canola oil
2 slices unpeeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 (8 oz) can of sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 tsp sesame oil

Preparation
In a medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch and wine. Add chicken and mix to coat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, and 2 Tbsp of water.

In a wok or large pan with tight-fitting lid, heat 1 tbsp of oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add 3 Tbsp water, reduce heat to medium, and cover the wok/pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is crisp, but tender–about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a bowl.

Add remaining 3 Tbsp canola oil to the same pan and return heat to high. Add ginger and garlic and stir until ginger and garlic sizzle. Stir chicken mixture and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until chicken turns white, about 2 minutes. Discard ginger and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and add soy sauce mixture. Stir to coat chicken. Add the bamboo shoots and broccoli. Stir until all ingredients are heated, coated, and chicken is cooked through. Drizzle with sesame oil and mix. Serve immediately with brown rice.

Source: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries 

Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

For our first ice cream maker experiment we played it safe and made a batch of delicious vanilla bean ice cream. After nailing that flavor, it was time to get a little more adventurous. Next stop: Mint chocolate chip. One of my absolute favorites. This is actually the second time I’ve made it in two weeks because the first time just wasn’t minty enough (although that didn’t stop us from scooping up every last bite). I wanted to be sure that increasing the quantity of mint extract to 1 1/2 tsp would provide that refreshing minty flavor without being too overpowering. It definitely earned the lick-your-lips seal of approval.

While mint extract works perfectly for now, I’ve already bookmarked a few mint chocolate chip recipes that use fresh mint. The idea of using fresh mint in the middle of winter just feels wrong, but I’m thinking that, come spring, growing a mint plant in my windowsill will be the perfect excuse for endless batches of mint chocolate chip ice cream, mint juleps, and mojitos.

Mint Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream 

Ingredients
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 cup dark chocolate chunks

Preparation
Combine milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add cream, salt, vanilla and peppermint extracts. Pour into ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions. About 10 minutes into freezing, add chocolate chunks. (If you have a Cuisinart ice cream maker it takes about 30 minutes total to freeze.)

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Vegetable Beef Soup

This is not the most glamorous meal I’ve ever made. But when I was looking for something that would be hearty without being too heavy for a quiet Friday night, this definitely did the trick—and then some. At first I wasn’t sure whether I was going to share this recipe…I mean, it’s vegetable beef soup. Doesn’t everyone have a recipe for that? Well, when searching for a recipe online I was surprised to find that locating one with all of the components I was looking for was no easy task. Maybe it’s because everyone assumes everyone else already knows how to make it? Um, I didn’t. My very simple criteria for a veggie beef soup included two main things:

  • Chunks of meat
  • Frozen veggies

As much as I love chopping—probably way more than is normal—I was looking for something that would minimize the amount of time between making a homemade winter meal and plopping my bum on the couch. Plus, my grandma and my mom always made their beef soups with frozen veggies so I was searching with a sense of nostalgia, too.

Finally, I ended up combining two recipes: One from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and one from a special issue (all soups!) of Better Homes and Gardens. The first included chunks of meat (yes, please!), but freshly cut veggies (normally that’d totally be my jam, but I was on the hunt for a shortcut). The latter included frozen veggies (score!), but ground meat (not this time).

Once I hit Whole Foods and got into the kitchen, what ended up happening was a beautiful thing. As homey and as basic as this recipe may seem, I channeled a little Ina Garten (who, by the way, didn’t have a vegetable beef soup recipe last I checked) and turned the volume way up by using high-quality ingredients. Here’s a peek:

  • Lean organic grass-fed meat
  • Organic frozen veggies with carrots, peas, corn, string beans, and baby lima beans
  • A healthy glug of merlot
  • Chunks of creamy Yukon gold potatoes

The result satisfied every item on my checklist and much, much more.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Ingredients
Grapeseed oil
1 ½ pounds lean beef stew meat (even if it’s already in chunks be sure to cut down to bite-sized pieces)
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
32 oz container low-sodium beef broth
28 oz can diced tomatoes
12 oz package frozen mixed vegetables
3 small Yukon gold potatoes, leave skin on & slice into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup red wine
salt & pepper

Preparation
Heat about 1 Tbsp of oil in a large pot on medium-high heat & swirl to coat bottom. Salt and pepper meat. Add beef in batches (be sure not to crowd) turning to brown on all sides. Once browned, transfer beef from pot to a plate and add next batch (I did it in three batches). Add additional oil as necessary. Once you remove the final batch, scrape brown bits off bottom of the pot with wooden spoon and pour out with accumulated fat. Return pot to heat.

Add onion and celery. Sautee until onion softens, about 5 to 8 minutes. Return beef to pot. Add the broth, tomatoes, frozen vegetables, potatoes, and wine. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste.

Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry

So this awesome thing happened: I accidentally made Thai takeout. I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised. What did I expect when I decided to make a recipe called Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry? (Duh.) Well I didn’t expect it to taste like takeout, that’s for sure. There were several ingredients that I had only a little previous experience cooking with–red curry paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk–so I really wasn’t sure what kind of flavors the combo would yield. (The answer: Delicious, slightly creamy, Thai curry goodness.)

I wish I could say that I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since I spotted it in the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit. While I receive–and devour–the magazine every month, I don’t remember seeing this recipe and I definitely didn’t tear it out. I sort of stumbled upon it earlier this week while searching Epicurious.com for a meal to make with the two frozen halibut filets I had in my freezer.

The one main change I’d make to this recipe (which I’ve included in the instructions below) is sauteing the shrimp in a pan for a few minutes before adding it to the saucy mixture. Although the shrimp cooks and turns pink the way the original recipe is written, I think that shrimp is so much better in taste and texture when it has a slight brown crust on the outside. A more minor change I made is adding crushed red pepper flakes. I read the reviews before making the recipe, and although most people raved about it several noted that it wasn’t spicy at all (kind of surprising for a Thai curry, right?) Since the spice-fiend (Robert) was coming for dinner I knew I had to kick the heat factor up a few notches. Judging from the fact that he didn’t touch the Sriracha sauce I provided on the side, I’d say it passed the test.

Thai Shrimp Halibut Curry

Ingredients:
3 limes
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped shallots
1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
2 1/2 tsp Thai red curry paste
13.5 oz can light coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce
12-16 oz halibut fillets (thawed if frozen) cut into bite-sized pieces
10 oz peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
Handful of unsalted roasted peanuts
Salt and pepper

Preparation 
Prepare the limes: Zest two limes to measure 1 1/2 tsp. Squeeze 2 tbsp juice from limes. Cut the third lime into wedges.

Heat vegetable oil in a big saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots, red pepper, and ginger and saute until peppers soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime peel, and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. At the same time, heat a small pan over medium-high heat and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper and add to small pan, cooking until it turns pink and slightly brown on the outside. Add halibut to curry sauce. Return sauce to a simmer and cook until fish is is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add shrimp to sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in red pepper flakes and cilantro.

Serve with jasmine or basmati rice (FYI reviewers say it doesn’t pair well with brown rice), top with handful of peanuts and wedge of lime and cilantro for garnish.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com. 

Chicken Salad with Red Grapes and Apple

I’m not the best when it comes to eating leftovers. I used to avoid them entirely, but now I can usually eat the same thing for dinner two days in a row–max. I’m even worse at repurposing food. You know those people who can turn a Thanksgiving turkey into southwestern turkey fajitas the next day and turkey vegetable soup the next? Well I’m not one of those people. I think it’s just how my brain works—I can hardly picture what else an already-cooked food could be besides what it currently is. (Incidentally, this is also how I dress: I have a bunch of outfits (growing up my mom called them “uniforms”), but I get lost when I try to put a particular top with a different pair of pants.)

So that’s why I’m so proud of this awesome chicken salad I made for lunch yesterday. I’m posting it here to give you inspiration more than an actual recipe since chicken salad is so versatile. If I can do it you can do it. The chicken, believe it or not, is leftover from Sunday night’s feast. (This is the part where I pat myself on the back.) At the time I didn’t realize I was doing myself a huge favor, but I separated the chicken from the sauce when storing it in the fridge. Yesterday while folding laundry it occurred to me: Slice the chicken off the bone and make chicken salad! (I had THREE giant chicken breasts leftover from Sunday that I couldn’t bring myself to throw out and yet, as delicious as it was, couldn’t stand to eat for dinner again.)

The white wine and tarragon flavors made the chicken salad especially bright and tasty. When making chicken or tuna salad, I typically add a tablespoon or so of Dijon mustard to capture that very same zing. After cutting up the chicken, I opened my fridge and threw in whatever ingredients I could find: A little bit of mayo, sliced red grapes, a quarter of a pink lady apple, and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper. (Some chopped scallions would have been great for color, crunch, and a certain bite, but it’s not something I typically keep on hand.) I served the chicken salad over a bed of baby spinach with a few of my new obsession: Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Crackers.  It was a super easy, healthy, and protein-packed lunch that kept me full all the way through the afternoon and yoga.