Saturday, July 30, 2016

Bittersweet Brownie Drops

These cookies have a super-intense chocolate flavor -- definitely an adult chocolate cookie packed with both melted bittersweet chocolate and chocolate chips.  My mom and I made them for a picnic on the Boston Harbor Islands, and they were so tasty (even if they got a little smushed in our pack).  They're really delicious on their own, and in my opinion even better crumbled up over ice cream! 

Bittersweet Brownie Drops (adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts)
Makes about 30 cookies

4 T butter, cut into chunks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Scant 1 cup (6.5 ounces) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 T flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with foil or parchment.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together.  Stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Beat in each egg one at a time, stirring well until incorporated.
3. Whisk together the flour and baking soda in a separate bowl, and then stir into the chocolate mixture.  Stir vigorously until the batter is smooth, glossy, and comes away from the side of the bowl.
4. Make sure the batter is cool, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
5. Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter onto the lined cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are puffed and crackled on the surface, but slightly soft to the touch.
6. Cool on wire racks, and then store in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad

I've really been feeling melon this summer, and this cantaloupe-focused dish is a really interesting way to enjoy it.  Pork cutlets are marinated in grated cantaloupe and lime juice, which makes them extra tender and flavorful.  And the salad on top really makes this dish special. I did find that at least with my melon, a julienne peeler was useless for making thin strips of cantaloupe -- it just turned it into mush.  If that's the case for you as well, just thinly slice the melon to get nice thin strips.  The cantaloupe is tossed with fresh herbs, fish sauce, and spicy jalapeno -- I would never have thought of this combination but it really works! Yum.

Pork Cutlets with Cantaloupe Salad (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 3

For the pork:
1 cup grated cantaloupe
2 T fresh lime juice
2 T olive oil
Generous pinch of salt
Several grinds of black pepper
6 thinly sliced pork cutlets

For the salad:
2 cups thinly sliced cantaloupe
3 thinly sliced scallions
1/4 cup fresh mint, minced
1/2 jalapeno, minced
2 T fish sauce
2 T fresh lime juice
A handful of coarsely chopped peanuts

1. Combine the grated cantaloupe, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Prick the pork all over with a fork, and then add to the bowl.  Marinate about 1 hour.  
2. Meanwhile, make the salad. Combine all the ingredients except the peanuts in a container, mix well, and stash in the fridge until ready to serve.
3. Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add oil, and once it's hot, add the pork.  Cook for just a couple of minutes on each side.
4. Serve the pork topped with the cantaloupe salad and chopped peanuts.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

If you're also melting from the current heatwave, let me suggest this fantastic fruity drink.  It's super easy -- just puree honeydew melon with a little sugar, water, and lemon juice, and then strain out the solids (if you like a smoother drink).  Chill and drink in large quantities!  It's so refreshing, and I won't tell if you add a little something stronger (psst...pisco is really tasty!)  Plus -- the color is amazing!

Day-Glow Honeydew Agua Fresca

4-1/2 cups chopped honeydew melon
3 cups water (approximate)
1 T sugar (preferably superfine, but regular is fine too) 
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine the melon with 1-1/2 cups water, the sugar, and the lemon juice, and puree until smooth. Add it about a cup of the additional water, then taste and add more water, sugar, and/or lemon juice to taste.  Chill well, and then serve over ice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Avocado

I made this recently when my parents came to visit me, and then again for another group of guests -- it's easily doubled or tripled for a big group.  It makes a great summer meal because it's fast to prepare and won't weigh you down.  The sauce is super delicious, and you can basically add whatever green veggies you like here.  Definitely don't skip the fresh herbs -- we used mint, but I think parsley or cilantro would be delicious too.  

The one trick to this recipe is that you need a julienne peeler or something similar to make long thing "noodles" out of the cucumber -- although you could do cubed cucumber, I think having the shape match the soba noodles really makes this dish more fun.  Luckily you can get one of these peelers very cheaply on Amazon -- I have this one that is currently under $10.  If you don't have a cucumber on hand, I think julienned carrots or zucchini would also be tasty!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumber and Avocado (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)
Serves 4 as a light meal

For the sauce:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1-1/2 T low sodium soy sauce
1 heaping T peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, your choice!)
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 T sesame seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
3 scallions, minced

To serve:
6-8 ounces soba noodles
1 cup frozen edamame
1 large English cucumber, cut using a julienne peeler
1 avocado, cubed
A few fresh mint leaves, for garnish

1. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients in a serving bowl and set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to package instructions.  In the last minute of cooking, add the frozen edamame to the pot.  Drain well and rinse with cold water until the noodles and edamame are cool.
3. Add the noodles and edamame to the sauce, with the cucumber and avocado.  Toss everything together until well combined.  Divide among serving bowls and garnish with a few mint leaves.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Asparagus Risotto in the Instant Pot

I've mentioned my Instant Pot before, and it really is a genius appliance (and they don't pay me to say that!)  Risotto in the Instant Pot might just be one of its best uses, because it turns risotto from a standing-over-the-stove dish to set-it-and-forget-it on a weeknight.  There are a few minutes of sauteing onions and toasting rice at the beginning, but then everything gets sealed in and pressure cooked to perfection.  The texture is fantastic, and I found that the rice was perfectly cooked in 5 minutes at high pressure.  The flavors here are great for spring and summer -- fresh asparagus and parsley brighten up the rich risotto.

The recipe below can be easily adapted to fit with whatever vegetables or proteins you prefer. Just roast or otherwise cook your add-in ingredients while the risotto is cooking, and then stir them in at the last minute.  You just want to make sure that whatever you choose is fairly "dry" -- if you try to use a very liquid-y addition, it will water down the risotto.  

Asparagus Risotto in the Instant Pot (adapted from The Kitchn)
Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus
2 T vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white or blush wine
Large pinch of saffron (optional)
2 T butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
A handful of minced fresh parsley, plus more for the table

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Trim and wash the asparagus.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.  Toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven until browned and tender (timing will depend on the size of your asparagus spears).
3. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a microwave or small saucepan until hot.  Set aside.
4. Press the "Saute" button the Instant Pot and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute for a few minutes, until softened but not brown.  Add the garlic, and stir for another minute. 5. Add the rice to the pot, and continue stirring for 2-3 minutes, until slightly toasted.
6. Add the wine and saffron to the pot, and stir until absorbed, 1 minute.
7. Add the hot stock, stir well, and secure the lid.  Use the "Manual" function to cook for 6 minutes at high pressure.  
8. When the timer beeps, quick release the Instant Pot, being careful to avoid the steam.  Stir well, and set the Instant Pot to "Saute."  If needed, cook the risotto further, stirring well (I was able to skip this step).  Stir in teh butter and Parmesan cheese.  When it is melted, turn off the Instant Pot and stir in the roasted asparagus and minced parsley.
9. Scoop into serving dishes, and top with more Parmesan and parsley.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Salmon in a Packet with Smoky Red Pepper Oil

Fish in a packet is always an easy, tasty dinner, but this version is even better than usual with the addition of a red pepper-smoked paprika sauce.  I love the combination of the anise flavor of the fennel with sweet corn as the base for this dish, and tender salmon goes well with both vegetables.  While the fish is in the oven, blitz up a quick red pepper oil -- everything just goes in a mini chopper until smooth (or you can use a hand blender).  The sauce would also be awesome on other fish or on chicken.  This makes a delicious light dinner on its own, but if you're hungrier you can add some crusty bread and butter or a green salad on the side.

Salmon in a Packet with Smoky Red Pepper Oil (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
Serves 2

1 cup thinly sliced fennel (about 1/2 large fennel bulb)
1 cup corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1 T minced fennel fronds
Salt and pepper
Two 6-ounce salmon fillets
Olive oil

For the smoky red pepper oil:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T minced roasted red peppers
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small garlic clove, minced
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and lay out two large pieces of foil on a baking sheet.
2. Toss together the fennel, corn, and fennel fronds with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Divide among the two pieces of foil.
3. Arrange the salmon on top of the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Fold up the foil and pinch closed.  Place in the oven for 14 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the smoky red pepper oil in a mini chopper or a small bowl.  Blend with a stick blender or mini chopper until smooth.  Set aside.
5. Let sit for 5 minutes, then open the packets. Transfer to a plate and drizzle with the smoky red pepper oil.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cook Once, Eat 3x: Homemade Chorizo Three Ways

I've become a huge fan of the Cooking Light feature Cook Once, Eat 3x.  The idea is that you make one base recipe, and then use it in three different dishes throughout the week.  It definitely makes leftovers more fun, and also makes meal planning super easy since three meals are already figured out!  This particular set of recipes all focuses on a homemade chorizo mixture.  The mixture is half turkey and half pork, although of course you could substitute in 2 pounds of prepared chorizo if you're feeling pressed for time.  The chorizo gets incorporated into three recipes: savory stuffed sweet potatotes, decadent nachos (ours were definitely waaaaay less healthy than the Cooking Light instructions, as per usual, but you can check out their version if you want to make this "light"), and shakshuka-style baked eggs with a Tex-Mex twist.  All the meals were really tasty, and different enough that it didn't feel like eating the same thing all week long.  Yum!

Chorizo Mixture (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/4 cup white vinegar
2 T olive oil
2 T smoked paprika
1-1/2 T ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork

Combine everything but the meat in a bowl, mix, and set aside.  Add the ground meats to a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often and breaking up the meat, until no pink remains, about 7 minutes.  Drain any excess liquid from the meat mixture, and then return to the heat.  Add the vinegar mixtures, stir, and cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is almost all cooked off.

Transfer 1-2/3 cups to a container for the nachos, and another 2 cups to a container for the eggs.  Stash those in the fridge for later in the week, and then use the remaining chorizo mixture for the sweet potato dish.

Chorizo and Chard-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces each)
Olive oil
Chorizo mixture, from above
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and leaves chopped into ribbons
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
3-4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes well, pierce with a fork, and wrap in foil.  Bake for one hour.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chard and cook 4 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the reserved chorizo mixture, along with the raisins and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper, and cook until everything is combined and hot.

Cut open each potato, and divide the chorizo-chard mixture between them.  Top with crumbled goat cheese.  Serve with a light salad on the side.

Loaded Chorizo Nachos

1-2/3 cups reserved chorizo mixture, from above.
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Tortilla chips
Sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Thinly sliced green onions
Cubed avocado
Minced cilantro

Preheat the broiler and line a large baking sheet with foil.

Combine the chorizo and beans in a small pot and heat, stirring often, until heated through.

Create a layer of chips on the baking sheet, and top with half of the chorizo-bean mixture, shredded cheese and green onions.  Repeat, to create a second layer of chips and toppings.  Broil one minute, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Top with the salsa, avocado, and cilantro, and serve right away!

Saucy Chorizo and Egg Skillet (aka Tex-Mex Shakshuka)

Olive oil
1-1/2 cups sliced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups Pomi strained tomatoes
2 cups reserved chorizo mixture, from above
4 large eggs
2 T minced cilantro
Garlic bread or tortillas, to serve

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and bell pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir in the cumin, salt, and crushed red pepper.  Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add in the tomatoes and chorizo.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Uncover, and for 4 indentations in the sauce using the back of a spoon.  Crack each egg into a small bowl, and gently slip into each indentation.  Cover, and cook 8 minutes or until the whites are set.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with garlic bread or tortillas on the side for dipping.