Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Greek Macaroni and Cheese

I have a big presentation at school today, which has made me extra stressed out all week and resulted in a steady diet of things like buttered noodles, bagels with cream cheese, and gummy mangoes.  Luckily, my boyfriend was nice enough to make me some real food last night - meatloaf, corn, and white rice, total comfort food.  And speaking of comfort food...

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite comfort foods.  I usually make my mom's recipe, but sometimes it's fun to change things up.  In this case, the mac and cheese is mixed with a variety of veggies: roasted garlic, onions, spinach, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes.  The cheese sauce is part Asiago (to make it melty and creamy) and part feta, for a delicious brine-y flavor.  A quick trip to the oven browns the cheese and gives the top layer a little crunch - you could add some panko for even more of a crunchy topping if you like.  I will definitely be making this one again - it's different enough to provide a fun change of pace, but also cheese-y enough to remain firmly in the 'comfort food' camp!

One note on the roasted garlic - we picked up a head of roasted garlic at our local pizza shop, but it's easy to make yourself as long as you plan ahead.  You can find lots of recipes online.  The roasted garlic will keep in the fridge for a couple of days; just be sure to put it in something airtight so it doesn't stink up your fridge.

Greek Macaroni and Cheese (adapted from Adventures in Cooking, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 head roasted garlic
3 T butter, divided
Olive oil
4.5 ounce package pre-chopped onions, garlic, and shallots (I used Trader Joe's brand)
5 cups baby spinach
1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
12 ounces dry pasta
1 tsp flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
10.5 ounces feta cheese, packaged in brine, chopped
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

1. Set a large pot of water to boil, and salt it once it comes to a boil.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
2. Squeeze out the garlic from the cloves, and mash.  Place in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Melt 2 T of the butter and 1 tsp oilve oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion mixture, and cook, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown.  Transfer to the bowl with the roasted garlic.
4. Add the spinach to the pan, and stir over medium heat until wilted.  Add more olive oil if you need to so that the spinach doesn't get brown or burnt.  When the spinach has wilted, squeeze out as much moisture as possible, chop if the pieces seem large, and add to the bowl with the garlic and onions.  Add the chopped artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes to the bowl.  Stir well.  Set aside.
5. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente.  Drain, and toss with a good glug of olive oil.
6. Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over low heat until melted.  Whisk in the flour.  Add the milk and half-and-half and heat until hot but not boiling.  Add the oregano and rosemary and mix well.  Stir in both cheeses, and then stir until the Asiago cheese is melted and the feta cheese has started to melt but there are still distinct chunks.
7. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese mixture to the bowl with the veggies.  Fold in the cooked pasta.  Scrape everything into an oiled 9x13 casserole dish.  Generously grate black pepper over the top.
8. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Let sit 5 minutes or so and serve.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you are a blogger, you probably also have lots of posts lying in wait - perhaps you have a photo but haven't typed up the recipe or description, or maybe it's a post that just has some ideas written down that haven't come together yet.  Whatever the case, these 'draft posts' can sit around basically forever until you go digging through them!

This morning, I was looking back through these posts and found this fantastic recipe for chicken tortilla soup that is probably at least a couple of years old!  It's definitely time for it to see the light of day, because I can still remember it and it was delicious.  My notes on this post say that I made this soup with my dad.  That's no surprise, because he is probably the biggest fan of chicken tortilla soup that I know!  This one is simple to put together and really hits the spot - juicy chicken, smoky flavor from the chipotle in adobo, a great hit of acid from the limes, and of course plenty of crispy baked tortilla strips.  Although I often turn to regular chicken noodle soup when someone is sick, I think this soup would also be a perfect pick-me-up if you're feeling under the weather - comfort in a bowl!

Also - note in the photo below the fantastic cabbage-shaped bowls my dad much fun!

Chicken Tortilla Soup (adapted from Meals in Heels, original recipe here)
Serves 6

4 corn tortillas
2 T olive oil
1 onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp minced chipotle in adobo (more to taste)
1 tsp ground cumin
14 ounce can whole tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Juice of 2 limes
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with oil.  Cut the tortillas into thin strips, and lay them out on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Spray the tops with oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake about 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Set aside to cool.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook another minute or two, until fragrant.  Add the chipotles, cumin, tomatoes, and stock.  Bring to a boil.
3. Add the chicken to the pot.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Remove the chicken and let cool until you can comfortably handle it.  Shred with two forks, or chop into bite-sized pieces.  Reserve the chicken.
4. Puree the soup - an immersion blender is easiest, but a regular blender will get the job done as well (just be careful!).  Once the soup is smooth, add the reserved chicken and the lime juice.  Reheat until the liquid is hot and the chicken is heated through.
5. Serve topped with the tortilla strips and fresh cilantro.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Greens and Bacon Quiche

I always forget how easy and delicious quiche is, especially if you use a pre-made crust from the grocery.  I like the sort that comes rolled up in the refrigerated section; the package isn't too big, so you can stash it in the freezer until the mood strikes.  Quiche is also a great way to use up whatever veggies, cheeses, and/or meats that are hanging out in the fridge.  In this case, I had both spinach and chard from our CSA box, as well as part of a package of bacon.  (Yes, I know that The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is a vegetarian cookbook, but I couldn't resist!)  This quiche is definitely on the rich side, even using skim milk, and makes a really delicious dinner.  Do be sure the center is really cooked through (not jiggly) before pulling it out of the oven - mine was a bit underdone, but still very tasty.

Greens and Bacon Quiche (adapted from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest)
Serves 4-6

Pie crust for one 9-inch pie plate
1/3 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
5 slices bacon, chopped into small squares
2 shallots, minced
1 bunch red chard, trimmed and chopped
1 bunch spinach, trimmed and chopped
4 eggs
1-1/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
Salt and pepper

1. Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate.  Scatter the cheese over the crust, and then set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon, and cook until just crisp, stirring often.  Transfer to a paper towel to drain, leaving the fat in the pan.
4. Add the onions, and saute until translucent.  Add the chard, and saute until the greens are just starting to wilt.  Add in the spinach, and continue to cook until the greens are all wilted.  Transfer to a paper-towel-lined strainer and let drain for a few minutes.  Once they're cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and chile flakes.  Season with salt and pepper.
6. Assemble the quiche.  On top of the cheddar cheese, layer on the bacon, followed by the greens.  Be sure to fluff the greens up a little so they aren't overly compressed in the quiche.  Pour over the egg-milk mixture.
7. Bake 40-45 minutes, until firm.  Cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Buttermilk-Butternut Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing

Our butternut squash has been piling up a bit since we got it a few weeks in a row from our CSA box. Luckily, it lasts a long time and is good in lots of dishes (we just managed to use the last one yesterday in this fantastic stuffed squash recipe)!  This cake is a great way to enjoy butternut squash if you've had your fill of it in savory dishes.  The cake has lovely orange flecks from the squash, but it's much lighter in flavor than your average carrot or zucchini cake.  The dominant flavors are nutmeg and vanilla, for a delicately-flavored treat.  This cake was good both with and without the frosting, and was equally good for breakfast, snack, or dessert.

Buttermilk-Butternut Cake with Spiced Vanilla Icing (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 10-12

For the cake:
Butter and flour for the pan
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 T cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
2-1/4 cups peeled and grated butternut squash

For the icing:
2-1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 T buttermilk (more if needed)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (more to taste)

1. Butter and flour a 10-cup Bundt pan.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the oil until combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Beat in the vinegar and vanilla.
4. Beat in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in alternating additions (flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk), beating each time until just combined.  Fold in the squash with a rubber spatula.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, and smooth the top.  Bake about one hour, until a tester comes out clean.
6. Cool 30 minutes, and then turn out onto a rack.  Let cool completely.
7. Prepare the icing.  Stir all the icing ingredients together until smooth.  Drizzle over the cooled cake.  Let the icing set for about 45 minutes before slicing the cake.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Butternut Empanadas

These cute little pastries are a bit involved to make, but they're also really delicious and so fun to eat!  The components are both pretty simple - a basic whole wheat crust paired with a cheesy, spicy squash filling.  The assembly is a little fussier, especially if you have a tiny kitchen like I do! There were a lot of rounds of rolling and cutting, and it was tricky to get the right amount of filling so that it wouldn't squish out the edges!  I also found I had about twice as much filling as I time I probably make half the amount of filling.  Definitely don't skip the sesame seeds on top - they added a nice nutty flavor, and next time I might add even more.  Overall, I was really happy with my finished empanadas...they were super tasty, and really adorable!  They kept well, and made a great item to pack in my lunch alongside soup or a salad.

Butternut Empanadas (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, original recipe here)

For the dough:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 stick + 3 T unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
3 T cream, more as needed

For the filling:
1 smallish butternut squash
Kosher salt
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp Allepo chili flakes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Several grates of fresh nutmeg
5-1/2 ounces grated cheese (I used an Italian farmhouse cheese similar to a Parmesan, but use whatever you prefer or have on hand)

To finish:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Sesame seeds

1. Make the dough.  Whisk together both flours and the salt.  Cut in the butter.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cream.  Stir into the flour mixture until the dough pulls together - drizzle in more cream as needed.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and stash in the fridge until you need it.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Scrape out the seeds, and then rub both halves all over with oil.  Sprinkle generously with kosher salt.  Place on a baking sheet, cut-side-up, and bake until tender, 45-50 minutes.
3. Heat some oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, and then add the shallots.  Cook, stirring often, until the shallots and soft and beginning to brown.
4. When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and place the squash in a bowl.  Add the shallots, chili flakes, cinnamon, paprika, and nutmeg.  Stir to combine everything until smooth.  Taste, and adjust seasoning.  Stir in the cheese.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
6. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick, and cut out circles.  Top each circle with a spoonful of filling, and then fold the top over to create a half circle.  Seal the edges with the tines of a fork.  Place on the baking sheet, and then brush with egg wash.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
7. Bake about 15 minutes, until nicely browned.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chai-Spiced Apple Crumble

I'm a huge fan of apple desserts with crispy, crumbly toppings - it's such a comfort food!  I was really happy to find this recipe from Buttered Up, because it takes a classic apple crumble and seriously spices it up.  This dessert is full of the spices you'd find in Chai, including what is probably my favorite spice, cardamom.  The topping also includes oats for a great chewy texture.  It's scattered over apples that are simply sweetened and flavored with a little vanilla.  I found the apple portion to be a bit on the sweet side, but I think the sugar is necessary to make a 'sauce' on the apples, so I wouldn't cut it back too much.  Overall, this is a great recipe, and I can definitely tell it's a winner since I've made it twice in the past month!

Chai-Spiced Apple Crumble (adapted from Buttered Up, original recipe here)
Serves 4

4-5 apples, peeled and cut into chunks
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 heaping T cornstarch
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a 2-quart baking dish with oil.
2. Stir together the apples 1/3 cup of the sugar, the cornstarch, and the vanilla. Place in the baking dish.
3. Stir together the oats, flour, salt, spices, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar.  Cut in the butter, and then blend in with your fingers until the dough comes together in small clumps.  Scatter over the apples.
4. Bake until browned and bubbling, 20-25 minutes.  Let cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Puy Lentil Galettes

These lentil galettes make a perfect light lunch.  My Mom and I made them in early January, and everyone was a big fan...although the pastry is buttery, overall this still feels like a fairly healthy dish.  I love the creaminess of the Greek yogurt sauce alongside soft onions, earthy lentils, and baby spinach.  Such a great combination!  Definitely seek out small French lentils, as they will hold their shape and won't become mushy.  The puff pastry shells make this dish feel extra fancy (and a little indulgent!), but you could easily serve the salad sans-pastry, perhaps alongside a bowl of soup instead.  

Puy Lentil Galettes (adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi)
Serves 6

1 cup Puy (French green) lentils
1 bay leaf
Oil, for the pan
1 medium onion, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
2 cups baby spinach leaves
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
3 T chopped fresh mint
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 package puff pastry shells (containing 6 puff pastry shells)
1 egg, beaten

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the lentils and bay leaf and cook 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.  Drain and place in a medium bowl.  Remove the bay leaf.
2. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until browned and soft, about 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.  Add the cumin, coriander, and garlic and cook for two more minutes, stirring often.  Add to the bowl with the lentils, mix to combine, and set aside to let cool to room temperature (a little warmer is fine too).
3. Add the yogurt, spinach, herbs, and lemon juice to the bowl with the lentils and stir to combine.  Drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil and stir to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Preheat the oven according to the package directions for your puff pastry.  Place the puff pastry shells on a baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.  Cook according to package directions, until golden brown.
5. Cut a circle in the top of each pastry shell and remove the top.  Scoop out the insides carefully.  Fill with a heaping scoop of lentils, and then top with the circle of reserved puff pastry.  Repeat with the remaining pastry shells.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roasted Green Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

I love this lemon-y green bean and sweet potato dish. In general, I'm a big fan of veggie side dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature - you don't have to worry about wrecking the texture of leftovers by reheating, and they're perfect for packing in lunches.  This dish has a great combination of textures - slightly crunchy roasted beans and softer sweet potatoes.  If you really want to add some crunch, you could add some toasted chopped nuts.  The star of the show, here, though, is the dressing - lemon juice makes this salad snappy and bright, and honey adds a touch of sweetness.  Definitely one I'll be making again!

Roasted Green Bean and Sweet Potato Salad (adapted from Fine Cooking)
Serves 4

3/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
A few big handfuls of green beans, trimmed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zest of 1/2 large orange
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your biggest sheet pan with foil.
2. Toss the potatoes, green beans, and onions with enough oil to just coat.  Season with salt and pepper, toss again, and spread out on the pan in an even a layer as possible.
3. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, until tender, stirring once or twice during roasting.
4. Let the veggies cool slightly and then scrape into a bowl.  Toss with the orange zest, lemon juice, and a drizzle of honey.  Taste and add a bit more of any of the seasonings as needed.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream

If you've looked at many ice cream cookbooks, you've probably heard about the difference between Philadelphia-style ice cream and French-style ice cream.  The latter is made with a custard base, while the former uses just cream (or a combination of cream and milk), sugar, and whatever other flavors you like.  I tend to prefer custard-based ice creams, because I think they have a better texture and tend to stay tasty a little longer in the freezer.  That said, Philadelphia-style is way easier, and can be a nice way to highlight delicate flavors, since the ice cream won't have an egg-y custard flavor.

You can probably see where this discussion of ice cream styles is going...this Meyer lemon ice cream is Philadelphia-style, and as such it perfectly showcases the delicate, floral flavor of Meyer lemons.  In comparison, my Meyer lemon custard ice cream tastes like lemon custard instead of just lemons.  I love both styles, but this is a great way to feature a delicious citrus fruit.  The sacrifice is definitely in the texture - sort of a cross between ice cream and Italian ice.  I liked it, but it's definitely best in the first day or two after churning.  One plus is that it definitely feels "lighter" than a custard ice cream, both in texture and flavor.  If you have access to Meyer lemons, I definitely recommend trying this refreshing treat!

Meyer Lemon Ice Cream (adapted from Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream)

1-1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup plus 2 T sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
Zest of 1-1/2 Meyer lemons

Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a small nonreactive saucepan with a lid. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer then remove from heat. Whisk in the lemon zest, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes at room temperature. Divide the cooled mixture in half and strain one half through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the sieve contents. Pour the strained mixture back into the unstrained mixture. Pour into a shallow pan or bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly, 1 to 2 hours.
When the mixture is cold, pour it into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the ice cream to an airtight glass or plastic freezer container. Cover tightly and freeze until the ice cream is firm, at least 4 hours.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Spinach-Chard Calzone

Although calzone sounds like a potentially fussy dish, you can actually make this in about an hour, start to finish.  The simple filling comes together quickly while the dough rises, and then assembly is easy since everything goes together in one big calzone.  (You could also make smaller individual calzones if you prefer, and if you want to spend a little extra time.)

The filling is delicious, and I highly recommend seeking out fresh ricotta cheese - I used the cheaper sort, and while the calzone was still tasty, I think it would have been even better with higher quality cheese.  I used both spinach and chard because it was what I had on hand, but you could use just one if you prefer.  This filling has a high proportion of greens to cheese, which I really liked, but you can adjust this to your preference and reduce the amount of greens if you like.  I used red chard, which was delicious but did dye my filling pink, so use red or rainbow chard at your own risk!

The most unusual ingredient in this filling was a minced chipotle in adobo.  The amount included here doesn't make the calzone spicy, but adds a terrific smoky flavor.  Of course, you can use more if you'd like a spicier dish.  Don't skip the tomato sauce to serve alongside the calzone - the filling isn't very moist, which is great because the calzone doesn't get soggy.  But, the dish overall would be too dry without a sauce on the side.

Spinach-Chard Calzone (adapted from Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America's Greatest Cooks)
Serves 3-4

4 ounces stemmed Swiss chard leaves
4 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 small ball fresh mozzarella, chopped
1 egg
1 chipotle in adobo chile, minced
Kosher salt
1 recipe quickie pizza dough, using 1 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Hot tomato sauce, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment or foil.
2. Rinse the greens well.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the chard leaves, with some water still clinging to the leaves, and stir occasionally until they begin to wilt.  Add the spinach leaves, and continue to stir until all the greens are wilted.  (Add more water or reduce heat if it looks like the greens are starting to brown instead of wilt.)
3. Drain the greens, let cool slightly, and then squeeze out as much moisture as possible.  Chop the greens.
4. Add the greens to a bowl with the ricotta, mozzarella, egg, and chipotle chile.  Mix to combine.  Add salt to taste.
5. Stretch out the dough into a large oval.  Add the filling to one side, leaving a border around the edges.  Fold over the part of the dough that is not covered with filling, and pinch the edges shut.  Slash the top to create steam vents.
6. Bake about 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool slightly, and then slice and serve with tomato sauce.