Thursday, October 26, 2017

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa


We recently bought a new house, and there's a fantastic Mexican grocery store in our new neighborhood.  I found some delicious-looking tomatillos there, and knew I wanted to make a roasted tomatillo salsa.  A roommate of mine from grad school had made this type of salsa, and after looking at a bunch of different recipes online, I think I figured out a pretty good approximation! The recipe is super easy -- roast all the veggies, and then puree with either a blender or stick blender.  It keeps well in the fridge, and is so tasty -- I could eat it with a spoon!  This version is mild, but you can either use a hotter chile or add more jalapenos if you prefer a spicy salsa.



Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

16-24 ounces fresh tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed well
1 jalapeno pepper
1/2 large white onion, cut into large wedges
Olive oil
Salt
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Toss the tomatillos, jalapeno, and onion with olive oil, and arrange in a single layer.  Sprinkle with a little salt.
2. Roast the veggies for 14-15 minutes, turning them once about halfway through.
3. Let cool slightly.  Remove the stem/seeds from the jalapeno and the cores from the tomatillos.  Add all the veggies to a blender or tall bowl (to use with a stick blender).  Tip in a little olive oil, along with the lime juice and cilantro.  Process until the salsa is as chunky as you like it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Peanut-Chocolate Chunk Shortbread


I made these cookies for a recent potluck, and they were a big hit! People could hardly believe they were peanut cookies -- I think because peanut butter cookies are so much more common, and starting with whole peanuts really creates a different texture.  Although the dough for these cookies comes together quickly in the food processor, slicing and shaping them was pretty fussy -- the dough crumbles very easily and I often had to sort of push everything back together on the baking sheet.  That said, once the cookies were baked and cooled, they stood up well and had a lovely shortbread-type texture and delicate flavor.  


Peanut-Chocolate Chunk Shortbread (adapted from Alice Medrich's Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts)

1 heaping cup lightly salted peaunts
1 slightly rounded cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

1. Place the nuts, flour, and sugar in a food processor, and process until the nuts are just ground.  Add the butter and vanilla, and process until the mixture forms a dough.  Add the chocolate chunks, and process until just incorporated.
2. Shape the dough into a log, wrap in parchment or wax paper, and chill overnight.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment or foil.
4. Remove the dough log from the fridge, and let sit about 10 minutes to soften slightly.  Slice into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on the baking sheets.  I found the dough was really crumbly, but when this happened, I just sort of pushed the dough back together and it baked up fine!  Bake 12-14 minutes, rotating halfway through.  The cookies will be lightly browned on the bottoms.
5. Let the cookies rest on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cheddar-Bacon Biscuits and Citrus-Kale Salad with Roasted Salmon

This biscuit recipe is so good I've made it three times in the past couple of months!  It's nice because it's super flexible -- I've used various types of dairy, and a whole range of different mix-ins.  If you don't have a full cup of milk, you can add some sour cream or plain yogurt to supplement.  The cheddar-bacon combo pictured below is fantastic, and I've also made a version with cornmeal, dried cherries, and pecans that is amazing with peach jam.  Best of all, the biscuit recipe is easy to pull together, even on a weeknight.

Make it a full meal with kale salad and roasted salmon.  These dishes are both simple but flavorful, and a nice lighter complement to the richer biscuits.  I especially loved the citrus dressing on the kale salad, with both lemon and orange juice plus Dijon mustard.  Yum!


All-Purpose Fancy Biscuits, with Cheddar-Bacon variation (adapted from Food Network Magazine)
Makes 9 biscuits (or cut into smaller pieces for more biscuits)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.

Whisk together:
2-1/2 cups flour (sub up to 1 cup with whole wheat or 1/2 cup with cornmeal)
2 T baking powdr
1 T sugar
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt

Cut 1 stick unsalted butter into small cubes, and cut into the flour using two knives.  If you have some large pieces, you can blend them in with your fingers.  

Add up to 1 cup mix-ins -- I used shredded cheddar cheese and diced bacon, but there are many options:
Grated cheese (cheddar, jack, havarti, Parmesan, etc.)
Crumbled bacon
Fresh herbs (scallions, chives, parsley, thyme, sage, etc.)
Pitted and chopped olives
Chopped nuts 
Dried fruit (chopped if large)
Seeds (poppy, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.)
Drained and chopped picked hot peppers
Drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Up to 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or another vegetable puree)
Citrus zest (lemon, orange, lime, etc.)

Add 1 cup buttermilk or whole milk, and stir until the dough just comes together.  Pat into a rectangle, about 3/4-inch thick, and then fold in half and pat out again to the same size.  Cut into rectangles (or use a biscuit cutter to create other shapes. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, and bake 12-15 minutes, until well-browned.

All-Purpose Citrus Dressing (adapted from Cooking Light)

2 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1 T orange juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard (creamy or country-style both work)
1 small clove minced garlic (optional)
Season with salt and pepper

Whisk everything together, taste, and adjust seasoning (I added a bit more lemon juice).

Citrus-Kale Salad with Roasted Salmon (adapted from Cooking Light)
Easily adaptable to any number of servings -- one bunch of kale will serve 2-3 people

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Rub fresh salmon with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast about 15 minutes, until it flakes easily.

Shred raw kale, and wash well.  Place in a large serving bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Massage for a minute or two until the kale starts to break down.  Add halved red grapes, orange sections, and crumbled goat cheese.  Dress with All-Purpose Citrus Dressing (see above).  Toss, and serve topped with roasted salmon.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Asiago Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cherry Tomatoes

I love polenta -- it's one of my favorite comfort foods.  Here, it's paired with Asiago cheese, sauteed Swiss chard, and sweet leeks, making a fresh and tasty light meal.  Cherry tomatoes sprinkled on top add a great hit of acidity to the dish.  For more protein, add a fried or poached egg on top.  (I'm currently pregnant and can't stand the sight of eggs, but someday I'm sure I'll like them again!)


Asiago Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cherry Tomatoes (adapted from Honest Cooking)
Serves 4

4 cups water (more as needed)
1 cup polenta
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese, plus more to serve
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large leek, white and green parts only, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed, stems removed, and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile
Halved cherry tomatoes

1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  Season with a generous pinch of salt.  Gradually stir in the polenta, whisking quickly to avoid lumps.  Turn down the heat, continuing to stir.  When the water is completely absorbed, add more water, a half a cup at a time -- at least 4 cups, but you may need more to get the consistency you want.
2. Cook the polenta for about 30 minutes, while you prepare and cook the rest of the recipe.  Whisk briskly occasionally, and add water as needed to keep the mixture loose.
3. In a large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil together and add the leeks.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown, 10-15 minutes.
4. Add the garlic to the keeps and cook a minute or two.  Add the chard and Aleppo chile, and cook, stirring, just until the chard is wilted.  Taste and season with more salt as needed.
5. Turn the heat off the polenta, add the grated cheese to the polenta, and whisk to melt.  Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired.
6. To serve, add a generous scoop of polenta to a bowl.  Top with greens, cherry tomatoes, and more grated Asiago cheese.  You can also add an egg for protein.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef-Stuffed Potatoes

I have a hard time with slow cooker recipes, because I never want to be dealing with meal prep in the morning, before work.  But, this one is actually easy enough that I was successful!  I prepared the spice rub, sliced the onion, and washed the potatoes the night before, so in the morning I just had to rub the spices onto the beef, wrap the potatoes in foil, and stick everything in the slow cooker.  The results were really yummy, combing flavorful beef with hearty potatoes.  I couldn't find the mini russet potatoes called for in the original recipe (4 ounces is tiny!) so had to use a more normal size -- they cooked most of the way through, but weren't 100% tender after the cooking time, so I had to add a couple of minutes in the microwave before serving.  But, the beef was perfectly cooked, so I wouldn't necessarily add more time to the slow cooking, and I didn't find this step too annoying.  Overall, definitely a winner!


Slow Cooker BBQ Beef-Stuffed Potatoes (adapted from Cooking Light)

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3 T tomato paste
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 pounds boneless beef chuck or short ribs
Spray oil
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into thick slices
Olive oil
6 small russet potatoes (4 ounces each) or 3 or 4 larger russet potatoes
To serve: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, favorite barbecue sauce, scallions, etc.

1. Combine the brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Rub all over the beef.
2. Spray the slow cooker insert with oil, and add the sliced red onion.  Top with the beef.
3. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap in parchment or foil, and place on top of the beef.
4. Cook on low for 8 hours, until tender.  If you used larger potatoes, they might need a couple more minutes in the microwave to cook through (obviously remove the foil first in this case!)
5. To serve, split the potatoes.  Shred the beef using two forks.  Top each potato with the beef-onion mixture and any other toppings you like.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Homemade Watermelon Soda Float

I love watermelon drinks, and this one is kind of the ultimate in awesome watermelon drinks.  It starts with a super pink watermelon puree, sweetened with simple syrup.  Then add seltzer to make homemade watermelon soda -- a perfectly delicious drink on its own.  But to really take it over the top, vanilla ice cream turns the soda into a float.  It's a great summer dessert -- pretty, sweet, and so delicious.  Although I made this with vanilla ice cream, I bet lime sherbet would be really tasty too.


Homemade Watermelon Soda Float (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Makes enough for a group, depending on how large you make them

For the watermelon concentrate:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 small seedless watermelon
1 T lime juice

To finish:
Seltzer 
Vanilla ice cream

1. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Seal and shake.  Shake periodically as you work on the rest of the recipe until the sugar is completely dissolved.  (Note: You can substitute store-bought simple syrup here if you prefer.)
2. Cut up the watermelon into cubes.  You should have around 8 cups, but you can pretty much eyeball it.  Puree using a hand blender, regular blender, food processor - whatever you have handy.  Strain through a fine-mesh strainer.  You should have around 4 cups of juice, but again, it doesn't have to be exact.
3. Add the lime juice and about half the simple syrup.  Taste, and add more lime juice or syrup to taste -- you want the concentrate to be pretty sweet and intensely flavored.
4. Chill the watermelon concentrate.  When you're ready to serve, fill glasses a little more than half full.  Top off with seltzer and scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Serve right away!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine

I wouldn't normally think to make a weeknight pasta recipe with two homemade sauces, but this dish is so delicious that it is more than worth it.  Plus, both sauces are super easy to prepare -- they're basically just dump and mix.  The first one is a pumpkin cream sauce flavored with Parmesan and lemon zest.  Everything just gets mixed together and then simmered a few minutes to melt the cheese and cook the egg.  The richness of the cream sauce is cut with a pepper-y, garlic-y pumpkin seed pesto made with arugula in place of basil.  You could easily substitute another green such as spinach, kale, or leafy herbs.  The two sauces are amazing together, and they pack lots of veggies into a pasta dish.  Yum!

Fair warning: the cream sauce loses some of its creaminess and doesn't look as appetizing in leftovers the next day, but it is still really tasty.


Double-Pumpkin Fettuccine (adapted from Feeding the Family)
Serves at least 4, leftovers aren't as pretty but still taste good

1 pound fettuccine

For the pumpkin cream sauce:
3-5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup canned pumpkin (look for 100% pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix!)
3 T heavy cream
3 T olive oil
1 large egg
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

For the pumpkin seed pesto:
1-1/2 cups arugula
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but stopping about 1 minute short of the final cooking time since the pasta will cook a minute longer in the sauce.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.  Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, whisk all the cream sauce ingredients together in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.  When the pasta is done cooking, whisk in the pasta water.  Return to to the pot used to cook the pasta, and place over medium heat.  Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Return the pasta to the pot, and cook for another minute, stirring, until the pasta is al dente.
3. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until the mixture is the texture you like.  This is a little stiffer than some other pestos, so you can add more olive oil if you prefer a looser sauce.
4. Top each portion of pasta with a spoonful of pesto.  Yum!