Tag Archives: main dish

Romanesco Mediterranean Salad – Foodie Fun

Romanesco Salad 3Wow, now where did October go, friends?  Is it really November?  I can’t believe that I’ve been at the new job for a month already, or that I just finished my first graduate school mid-terms, or that my birthday twin is about to turn one year old (That would be my niece, Izzy-bear.  Yes, she was born on my birthday!).  What a packed year and how quickly its end approaches.  Alas, that also means the end to my local Farmer’s Market, which is about to shutdown for the winter.

I hate to admit that I ended up throwing away most of the produce I’d pick up each Sunday at the market (Told you it was a packed year!).  With mid-terms overRomanesco Head Close Up and finals not quite here yet, however, I now have a weekend or two to have some foodie fun and get my kitchen creativity on.  Yay!  Of course, as the weather is cooling down so are the in-season selections, but it also means those spring-time cool weather crops that I missed are making their second appearance like this little, difficult to find beauty: Romanesco.

I can’t believe I actually came across this lovely piece of natural art, but there it was: a bright green mound of fractal florets surrounded by colorful orange and purple cauliflower.  How could I resist?  It was like when I found those fiddle-head ferns.  I couldn’t wait to have some fun thinking up something fun and new.

Romanesco Head Close Up 2The first step, of course, was to taste the Romanesco.  From what I had read, I knew to expect some sort of cauliflower/broccoli blend.  Considering that it is also more often called Romanesco Broccoli than Romanesco Cauliflower, I was prepared for my taste buds to meet something along the metallic flavor I tend to get from broccoli.  To my surprise, I found Romanseco to have the sweeter profile of cauliflower, only nuttier, but still with the slight bite of broccoli.  If you are a cruciferous fan, I definitely recommend this veggie!

So what to do with the two heads of Romanesco I had purchased?  Since part of Romanesco Salad 2this vegetable’s appeal is it’s exotic appearance, I knew I wanted to maintain whole florets.  However, I didn’t want to just steam the Romanesco.  I mean, I was supposed to be having FUN.  So of course I turned to Emilie’s and my favorite cooking resource:  the Flavor Bible.

Now Romanesco is a bit too exotic to have its own entry in this tome, however now that I knew what it tasted like I flipped to the cauliflower entry and perused the suggested pairings…and at the top of the list, in bold type nonetheless, was…anchovies.

Huh.

Heck, why not? Time to stretch my kitchen skills after such a long hiatus, right? Right!

Romanesco Salad 1Continuing down the list, I determined  a simple, Mediterranean style dressing would be the perfect solution to show off these pretty florets both visually and flavor-wise.  And if I do say so myself,  this Romanesco salad turned out to be quite versatile. I ate it fresh (well, post photo-op) while it was warm, but throughout the week I found myself nibbling on the refrigerated leftovers.  This recipe is readily a main dish, a side dish, and a tapas and can be served warm, room-temperature, or cold. Not a bad deal, I say.

And it was definitely fun.

Mission accomplished!

Romanesco Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients

Romanesco Salad Ready for Assembly

  • 2 heads Romanesco Broccoli/Cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 2 tablespoons small capers
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • cooking spray
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and anchovy paste, whisking together until emulsified.  Set aside.Romanesco Salad Dressing
  2. Fill a saucepan with 3/4 to 1 inch of water and insert steamer basket and bring to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the Romanesco.
  3. With a paring knife, carefully cut florets from the Romanesco to preserve their unique fractal shape.
  4. Once the water comes to a boil, place the Romanesco florets into the steamer basket and cover.  Steam 3-5 minutes depending on desired tenderness. When finished transfer florets to a large bowl filled with cool water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and set aside.Romanesco Salad Steaming
  5. While Romanesco is steaming, spray a pan with cooking spray and heat over medium. Once pan is heated, toast breadcrumbs for about 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove from heat.
  6. In a large bowl, combine steamed florets, capers, and redpepper flakes.  Pour in the anchovy dressing and toss ingredients to coat.  Add toasted breadcrumbs and toss one more time to combine ingredients.Romanesco Salad Dressing Salad
  7. Serve at room temperature as tapas or a side dish.

Romanesco Salad 5

Advertisements

Margarita Chicken Fajita

For the longest time, I did not understand what the difference is between a taco and fajita. But several Texans and Mexican food experts have since tried to set me straight, so let me try to explain the difference here.

A taco is a traditional Mexican dish made by wrapping a spicy filling made of beef, chicken, pork, or even fish in a flour or corn tortilla. It is served with condiments such as salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cheese.

A fajita is a Tex-Mex dish made by wrapping a spicy filling, such as beef or chicken, in a flour or corn tortilla. Often served with condiments such such as salsa, sour cream, avocado, and cheese.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - assembled fajitas 1

Still confused? Yea the definitions are practically identical. A fajita is really just an American version of the traditional Mexican taco. True, fajitas are usually made with grilled skirt steak, but as this recipe shows, you can easily use marinated chicken breasts. For me, and most people I’ve talked to about this confusing subject, the defining characteristic of fajitas, and what really separates them from tacos, are the peppers and onions that get served with the grilled meats. These are frequently sauteed, although here I roast them because it is easier and lets me focus on the other aspects of the dish while they vegetables cook.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas -  assembled fajitas 3

Margarita Chicken Fajita
Serves 4

1 large green pepper
1 large red pepper
1 large yellow onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
marinated chicken breasts (see below)
1 package fajita-sized tortillas
1 avacado, pitted and thinly sliced
chopped cilantro
sour cream
salsa
shredded cheese

Marinated Chicken Breasts
½ cup jalapeno-infused tequila
¾ cup lime juice
½ cup  orange juice
1 tablespoon hot chili powder
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb boneless chicken breasts

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - marinade ingredients

1)     Begin by combining the marinade ingredients in a resealable gallon bag, close, and shake vigorously to mix together. Place the chicken breasts in the bag and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - combine marinade in ziploc bag

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - place chicken in marinade

2)      Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Slice bell peppers and onion into half inch wide strips. Toss peppers and onions together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season liberally with salt & pepper.  Place in preheated oven and roast for about 20-30 minutes.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - roast the peppers and onions

3)     While the vegetables roast, remove the chicken from the marinade. Carefully cut the chicken in half to create thinner slices of chicken. This allows you to cook the chicken at a relatively high heat so you get a nice sear on the outside and it cooks fully through.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - slice the chicken

4)     Heat the second tablespoon of olive oil in large cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the chicken to the pan and cook for several minutes, giving the chicken breasts a nice sear then flip and sear the second side. After about 5 minutes, lower heat to medium and cover the pan so the chicken can cook through. Remove chicken from pan when no longer pink in the middle.

5)     Carefully cut the chicken into diagonal strips and arrange on a platter with the roasted vegetables and other condiments. Serve with warm corn or flour tortillas.

Margarita Chicken Fajitas - the fajita platter

Margarita Chicken Fajitas -  assembled fajitas 3

Chicken Paprikash

The history and culture of different foods is a funny thing. Take paprika for example. While there are many types of paprika, from the simple mild paprika that is great for adding color to deviled eggs, to richer paprikas from Spain and Hungary, most people immediately associate the spice with Hungary, where it is considered the national spice. Yet the various capsicum annuum plants that are the basis of paprika were not introduced to Hungary, or Europe for that matter, until after the discovery of the Americas. It came in only one variety – HOT – until the 1920s when a sweeter variety of the the plant was discovered by a Hungarian breeder in the city of Szeged (yep, the very name that appears on the most popular brand of Hungarian paprika in the U.S. Coincidence? Unlikely.).

Hungarian paprika comes in 8 different grades of flavor, which the Kitchn does a great job of explaining here, although state-side we generally can only find sweet, hot, and – if you are lucky – smoked. In fact recently, it took me nearly a month to find a new tin of Hungarian sweet paprika. I checked Wegman’s in Virginia, 3 different stores here in D.C. and all I could find was plain paprika. It wasn’t until I was wandering aimlessly through the grocery store near my office that my eye was drawn to that lovely bright red rectangular box that clearly marks the presence of Hungarian paprika.

Chicken Paprikash  finished dish, pt 3

The best way to highlight the flavors of a new tin of Hungarian paprika is chicken paprikash served over späetzle or wide egg noodles. I prefer my paprikash with skinless, boneless chicken thighs, although any type of chicken can be used. Furthermore, if you aren’t the type to own 2 different types of paprika, you can substitute cayenne pepper for the hot paprika in the recipe with little side effect.

Chicken Paprikash  finished dish, pt 2

Chicken Paprikash
serves 4

1½ tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 to 1½ pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 large onion
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt & pepper
2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
½ tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (or cayanne pepper)
1½ tbsp fresh thyme (preferably German)
3 cups chicken stock
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
half a medium head of savoy cabbage
1 cup sour cream

1)     Place butter and olive oil in a heavy bottom pan, like a dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Once butter has melted, swirl to combine with oil.

2)     Place chicken pieces in the pan and brown both sides. Chicken pieces do not need to be cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Chicken Paprikash - sear the chicken

3)     While the chicken is browning, thinly slice onions length-wise (root to tip). Add the onions and garlic to the pan after the chicken has been removed. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chicken Paprikash - saute the onions

4)     Stir in paprikas, thyme, and salt & pepper to taste. I use about 1 teaspoon of hot paprika in my dish, although I recommend starting with ½ a teaspoon and adding more later if desired. Cook for about a minute, scrapping up bits from the bottom so they do not burn.

Chicken Paprikash - add in paprika

Chicken Paprikash - stir in paprika

5)     De-glaze pan with chicken stock and stir in tomatoes. Add chicken pieces back to pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, uncovered (I cover my pot at an angle, so steam can release but tomato splatters all over the oven are kept to a minimum).

Chicken Paprikash - add the chicken broth

Chicken Paprikash - add the tomatoes

6)     After the stew has been simmering for about an hour, slice your cabbage into thin ribbons about ¼ of an inch wide. Remove an particularly touch pieces near the core and add the rest to the pot, stirring well. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

Chicken Paprikash - Add the cabbage

7)     Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 cup of sour cream. Serve over egg noodles or späetzle.

Chicken Paprikash - add the sour cream

Chicken Paprikash  finished dish, pt 1

Smokey Sweet Potato Tortilla Española with Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola

tortilla espanola sweet potato serving 1I am eating leftovers of this delicious, Spanish inspired dish right this minute for breakfast. So yum any time of day if you ask me. Now am I having dinner for breakfast? Or did I have breakfast for dinner? Both!

Some of you are probably thinking, “A meal made out of tortillas?” Maybe you understand wrapping your meal in a tortilla, such as you would a breakfast burrito…Now hold it right there! We are definitely not on the same page yet. In tortilla espanola sweet potato platedSpain, let’s call this the “old world” dish, a tortilla is the country’s equivalent to the Italian’s frittata. It is an open faced omelet.  The key difference between the Italian and Spanish version is that the Spanish version requires potatoes. That is why it is sometimes referred to as tortilla de patata instead of tortilla española. The only thing an “old world” tortilla has in common with the “new world” tortilla, which we love to wrap our fajitas in, is the round shape.

The tortilla española is a very versatile dish. Just recipe wise, look at how easily I tortilla espanola sweet potato cutchanged the traditional potato poached in olive oil concept.  You can definitely make this dish your own with a few easy tweaks.  In Spain, you’ll find tortillas served as tapas, as a main dinner course…my sister and I actually had our first tortilla in the form of a sandwich we picked up at a rest stop during the bus ride from Marbella to Grenada.  Of course, you typically do not find them on the breakfast menu and Spaniards do not typically “do brunch”, but as you can see from my introduction tortillas are perfect for both!

For dinner and tapas, I recommend serving a tortilla española with garlic aioli and vegetables such as asparagus, zucchini, or a nice salad to help balance out all the protein and starches in the tortilla.  At breakfast, I like mine served with fresh fruit (Kiwis have been my favorite so far! The acidity cuts through the richness of the sweet potato and caramelized onions.). You can even cut the tortilla into  biscuit sized pieces to replace the mini fritatas in my breakfast sandwich recipe.

tortilla espanola sweet potato serving 2

Smokey Sweet Potato Tortilla Española

Ingredients
  • 1 large sweet potato, appx 1 pound, cubed
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, sliced ¼” thicktortilla espanola sweet potato ingredients
  • 6-8 large eggs
  •  ¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese , crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Appx 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (add more if you like)
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F
  2. Spread sweet potato onto a greased or foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Toss to evenly coat and spread into a single layer.tortilla espanola sweet potato seasoning
  3. Roast sweet potatoes  until golden, about 35-40 minutes, flipping once halfway through the backing process.
  4. While sweet potatoes are roasting, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a pan large enough to hold the onions and place over medium heat. Remember, we want to caramelize, not fry, the onions.
  5. Add onions to the pan and saute, stirring occasionally (not frequently!). In about 15 minutes, the onions will have wilted and start to turn golden. No, not caramelized yet!tortilla espanola sweet potato browned onions
  6. Continue to cook onions over medium, stirring only once every minute. In 15-20 minutes, they will darken to nearly brown and have an intense, rich flavor. The entire caramelizing process will take 30-45 minutes. tortilla espanola sweet potato caramelized onions
  7. As the sweet potatoes and onions finish, crack the eggs into a medium to large mixing bowl and beat together. Season with salt and pepper and add the Gorgonzola cheese to the bowl. Beat again.tortilla espanola sweet potato eggs and gorgonzola
  8. Reduce oven to 350° F after sweet potatoes are finished roasting.
  9. In a large, oven safe pan, heat the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat.  (If the pan you used for the onions is large enough to hold all the ingredients, set the onions aside in a bowl and re-use the pan.)
  10. Once garlic is fragrant, add the onions and sweet potatoes to the pan. Give a quick stir to mix ingredients.tortilla espanola sweet potato everything back in the pan
  11. Pour beaten eggs into the pan over the sweet potatoes and onions. Ensure ingredients are distributed evenly through the tortilla.tortilla espanola sweet potato adding egg
  12. Cook the tortilla in the pan until the egg begins to set, about 1-2 minutes. You’ll notice the edges starting to dry a little.tortilla espanola sweet potato look for edges of egg drying
  13. Transfer pan to the pre-heated oven and bake until edges of the tortilla are browned and a knife inserted at the center comes out clean.tortilla espanola sweet potato ready for the oven
  14. Allow to cool 3-5 minutes and transfer to a serving plate or platter. Cut into wedges, serving either hot or at room temperature. tortilla espanola sweet potato cooling in pan

To freeze, cut into servings and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Then either wrap again with foil or place in freezer bags. When ready to re-heat, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a 350° F oven and heat through, about 30 minutes. (Or: defrost in microwave for one minute at 50% power then bake for 15 minutes). To re-heat in a microwave, follow the same guidelines as my breakfast sandwiches

Spinach Risotto Stuffed Peppers

Spinach Risotto Stuffed Pepper, close up

There are plenty of dishes out there that I like as an idea, but the traditional execution of the dish always seems to fall short of its real potential. Things like tuna noodle casserole sound great, but the common recipe for it – using salty yet  bland creamed soup and frozen peas and carrots – make for a sad expanse of white goopy mess. Stuffed bell peppers are another one of those dishes that is great in concept but disappointing in its common iteration of ground beef, rice,  and tomatoes seasoned with pre-packaged taco seasoning and top with cheese. Still, I love the idea of adding vegetables to my diet by stuffing them with delicious fillings, plus, these leftovers are perfect meals for lunch later in the week. Clearly, this classic dish is primed for a makeover. Since is is still early in the new year and many of us are still focused on our resolutions, a vegetarian risotto with the tangy bite of goat cheese could be rich and tasty, but still healthy.

Spinach risotto stuffed pepper

A few tips for making your stuffed peppers:

  • When selecting your peppers at the grocery store, pick peppers with relatively even bottoms so they can stand on their own.
  • I like to put my goat cheese in the freezer for 45 minutes or so. When it is partially frozen it is much easier to crumble into small pieces. This ensures that the goat cheese touches all of the risotto.

Spinach and Risotto Stuffed Peppers
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, kept simmering
1 ¼ dry white wine (I used leftover Prosecco)
3 cups thinly slice spinach
3.5 ounces (approximate) goat cheese
4 red/yellow/orange bell peppers
4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1)     Begin by prepping your ingredients:  put the stock in a sauce pan and begin to heat it. Dice your shallot and thinly slice your spinach. Crumble/chop the goat cheese to stir into the risotto later.

Prep your ingredients - finely dice the shallots Prep your ingredients - thinly slice the spinach Prep your intredients - crumble the goat cheese

2)     Heat the olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan for 1 minute over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add arborio rice and sautee for about 4 minutes, until some of the grains of rice just begin to show a bit of color.

Sautee the shallots sautee the rice

3)     Add 2 ladles of hot stock to the rice and stir constantly until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add half a cup of the dry wine and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add a ladle of stock, then another half cup of wine, ladle of stock,  and the last of the wine; stirring between each addition of liquid.

add the turkey broth

4)     Continue to add the stock a ladle at a time until just before the rice is really close to done. You don’t want to cook it to completely done, as it will cook some in the oven.

stir until most of the liquid is absorbed

5)     Stir in the thinly sliced spinach and goat cheese until the cheese is completely melted and spread throughout the risotto.

Stir in the spinach and goat cheese

6)     Cut the tops of off 3-4 medium to large red, yellow, or orange bell peppers. I had bought 3 peppers, but ended up having enough risotto to fill another pepper if I had one.  Using a sharp parring knife cut out he seeds and white membrane ribs from the peppers.

Slice and de-vein the peppers

7)     Fill each pepper to the top with risotto and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Place inside a dutch oven or baking pan and replace the top of the pepper.

Stuff the peppers

8)     Bake in an oven preheated to 375°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the peppers are tender.

Risotto stuffed pepper

Seafood Risotto with Shrimp and Scallops

Seafood Risotto 1It’s here, it’s here!  Weeks of preparation and Christmas is finally here…and I’m still not ready! Anyway, today is Christmas Eve and for most of my life that meant getting last minute gifts wrapped, prepping as much as possible for Christmas Day dinner, and taking a long nap in the evening in order to stay wide awake for Midnight Mass.  In researching Filipino Christmas traditions (you may recall my Christmas Tradition Makeover post last week) , I actually stumbled upon a pretty cool Italian Christmas Eve tradition: The Feast of the Seven Fishes… Must have been the Christmas and Seafood search combo. Whatever the chances, this was the perfect opportunity to give my Mustard Seed inspired Seafood Risotto (Remember #2?) another go.

Though there are many background stories as to the origins of this tradition and why “seven fishes”…some say it represents the seven Seafood Risotto 2sacraments,  some the seven days of creation, others the seven hills of Rome…whatever the story may be, it all boils down to a large, seven or more course seafood feast on Christmas Eve. How awesome is that? I don’t know about you, but I love, love, love, love, love seafood! And seven happens to be my favorite number, too!

So in honor of this Italian Christmas tradition, I give you my Seafood Risotto, inspired by the delicious Shrimp and Scallop Risotto of  the Mustard Seed in Summerville, SC.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Seafood Risotto 6

The directions below are approximate since I was absolutely STARVING when I made this and didn’t have time to write as I went.  I almost didn’t take any pictures! So, if anything below gets confusing, just leave a comment and I’ll try to better explain you through it.

A SEAFOOD RISOTTO FOR THE FEAST OF SEVEN FISHES

serves 4-6

Ingredients

Seafood Risotto Ingredients

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 pound seafood (I used sea scallops and shrimp)
  • 1 32 ounce box seafood stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used sparkling wine this time)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided in thirds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese to garnish
  • Optional: Seafood flavor concentrate
  • Optional: Fresh basil

Directions

  1. Pour seafood broth into a medium saucepan and heat over medium until simmering. If using the seafood flavor concentrate, add to the pot and stir to dissolve. Allow broth to maintain a low simmer while completing steps 2-6.
  2. Season seafood with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy pot over Seafood Risotto Cooking Seafoodmedium-high heat.
  4. Cook each type of seafood separately to ensure even cooking. I started first with scallops since they take longer. Add more olive oil in between batches if needed. Set cooked seafood aside when done.
  5. Pour wine into pot and scrape up any brown bits (deglaze) left from the seafood. Allow wine to simmer and reduce in half. Carefully add the reduced wine to the seafood broth.Seafood Risotto Deglaze Champagne
  6. Add remaining olive oil to pot (2 tablespoons).  Once heated, pour in the Arborio rice and toss for about a minute to give it a very light toasting.Seafood Risotto Toasting Rice
  7. Using a ladle or heat safe/resistant measuring cup, carefully pour 1 cup of the hot seafood broth to the arborio rice. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until almost all of the broth has been absorbed by the rice.Seafood Risotto Adding Broth
  8. Continue adding the seafood broth 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed in between each addition. As you get to the final cup of broth, add in small batches until the rice can no longer absorb any more liquid, and rice is “al dente” and creamy.Seafood Risotto Complete Absorption
  9. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  10. Add diced tomatoes along with the basil if using. Top with the cooked seafood and toss everything together in the potSeafood Risotto Seafood Back in Pot
  11. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium low. Let the tomatoes and seafood re-heat, about 5 minutes.
  12. When heated through, serve garnished with shredded Parmesan and basil.

Seafood Risotto 5

~Ruth

Maple Glazed Cornish Game Hen

We are just a week away from Thanksgiving here in the States. A day well known for its table buckling early evening meal complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, and cranberry sauce. It doesn’t matter where you go – it is always a lot of food. That’s rarely a problem in my family since I have 4 married siblings and nieces and nephews. We always have enough people to devour just about any turkey put before us. Sometimes though, there just aren’t that many people around the dinner table. I have one friend this year whose husband can’t take any vacation this year and so they are going to be celebrating just the 2 of them.

Understandably, my friend was pretty upset about missing Thanksgiving with family this year. Not only was she not going to be able to see family, but she was at a loss as to how to create her own Thanksgiving feast without being stuck with enough Turkey to last them until February. She doesn’t want to do roast a chicken because she doesn’t feel it is special enough for the holiday, so I suggested making Cornish Game Hens.  My friend liked the idea and then asked me to help her out with a recipe, since she’d never cooked the birds before. So, I did some research and came across Martha Stewart’s maple-glazed hens, which I used as the starting point for this recipe. Roasting carrots and parsnips with the birds relieves some of the pressure of making side dishes. I served my practice game hen with a pineapple stuffing. For the actual holiday I would add homemade cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and a small side of mashed potatoes. Thanksgiving dinner for 2!

Maple Glazed Cornish Game Hen
Serves 2

1 large game hen
2 tablespoons softened butter, divided
Half a lemon
1 large  shallot, or quarter of red onion
½  cup Grade A Maple Syrup
1 ½  teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cardamom
salt & pepper
3 medium-large carrots
2 large parsnips
1 small baking apple
Olive oil

1)      Remove giblets, if present, from hen and rinse hen inside and out with cold water and place in a colander to drip dry. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2)      Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Add cumin and cardamom, and about 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for 30 seconds. Add maple syrup (tip, spray your measuring cup with Pam to make it easier to work with) and heat for about 1 minute, or until it is easy to whisk together the syrup and butter.

3)      Pat game hen dry with a paper towel and place in a small pan. Take the remaining butter and rub it all over the outside of the bird. Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the game hen. Stuff the cavity with the lemon and shallots/onions. Use kitchen twine to tie the legs together and then tuck the wings underneath the trussed legs.

4)      Place bird in oven for 15 minutes. During this time peel and cut carrots and parsnips into chunks approximately 1 inch in size. Chop apple into similar size chunks. Toss with olive oil and 3 tablespoons of the maple syrup mixture.

5)      When the 15 minutes are up, take the bird out of oven and brush with the maple syrup glaze. Add carrots and parsnips to the pan and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

6)      Once those 30 minutes are up, brush the bird with more glaze, stir the vegetables, and return for the oven for another 30 minutes. Repeat one more time.

7)      At this point check to see if the bird is done using a meat thermometer, you want it to be between 180°F and 190°F. If it takes longer, feel free to brush with any leftover glaze.

8)      Remove bird from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

**Adapted from Martha Stewart

Chicken Enchiladas

My mom has been amazing over the past year, letting me move back in after graduate school and offering tons of love and support as I job hunted, and then commuted over 3 hours a day. A couple of nights before I left, I treated my mom and I to chicken enchiladas with homemade red sauce as a final thank you. See, her husband isn’t a big cheese fan, while my mom and I would eat it every day if we could. So, with her husband out of town for a month, I decided to make the cheesiest gooiest dish I could think of, enter the enchiladas.  The final dish was a hit with my mom, with her even going back for seconds.

Chicken Enchiladas
serves 4-6

4 cloves garlic, minced
corn oil
12 ounce can tomato paste
3 ½ – 4 cups chicken broth
4 ounce can roasted green chilies
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoon Mexican chili powder
2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups shredded chicken
1 small onion, diced
1 sweet (red/yellow/orange) bell pepper, diced
3 cups of cheese, divided
1 package small corn tortillas

1)    Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

2)     In a large sauce pan heat about 1 tablespoon oil and saute garlic for about 1 minute, until translucent.

3)     Stir together tomato sauce and green chilies. Whisk in 3 ½ cups of chicken broth and tomato paste.

4)     Whisk in oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa, chili powder, and salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes over low heat.

5)     While the sauce simmers, dice onion and pepper and stir together with shredded chicken.

6)     Spread about a cup of sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch pan (or a 2 quarter baking dish and an 8-inch square pan if you want to freeze a small pan for later).

7)     Microwave corn tortillas 4 at a time to soften them. Fill each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture, sprinkle with abut ½ a tablespoon of cheese, and roll tightly. The tortillas may crack in places, but that is fine.

8)     Place rolled tortillas seam side down, as shown below.

9)     Once the pan is full, ladle additional sauce over the top of the enchiladas, using the back of the spoon to spread carefully. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the pan and place in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

If you want to freeze a portion of the enchiladas for later use. Wrap tightly with saran wrap, then tin foil, and place in a plastic bag to ward of any chance of freezer burn. I used a sticky note to label the pan and remind me to bake the enchiladas at 350°F for 45 minutes.

Spinach Salad with Tuna Cakes

For such a simple dish, salads are incredibly difficult to get right. I am not a fan of the standard garden salad, I just don’t think it really lets any of the ingredients shine they way they should. As for Ceasar salads, they are such simple fare that each and every ingredient must be the absolute freshest and carefully crafted. Dressing from a bottle and croutons from a box just don’t cut it.

For me a good salad is simple and contains a few key ingredients:

1) Homemade salad dressing – always homemade salad dressing. A basic vinaigrette is about 3 parts oil to 2 parts vinegar and requires just a few fresh herbs to take it to the next level.

Champagne Mustard Vinaigrette

2) Dark leafy greens – I really dislike iceberg lettuce and will never actually buy it. Generally all of my salads are made with spinach, but sometimes I’ll mix in a mesclun mix, arugula, or butter lettuce.

3) Textures – Whether its croutons, crunchy garbanzo beans (like I use here), or a crunchy veggie like carrots or radishes, I always make sure to add a bit of crunch to my salad.

This basic spinach salad topped with warm tuna cakes includes all three of these vital components plus a little cheese for added flavor. While I love this with the tuna cakes warm and fresh, if you don’t eat it all, the tuna cakes are still delicious cold on the salad for lunch the next day.

SPINACH SALAD WITH TUNA CAKES

Mustard Vinaigrette

1/2 cup champagne (or white wine) vinegar
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard or horseradish mustard
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

Crunch Garbanzo Beans

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
olive oil
salt and pepper

Tuna Cakes

2 10-ounce cans water packed tuna, drained
2 slices bread
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1 shallot
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons horseradish

Fresh baby spinach
Shredded Parmesan cheese

1)      Combine dressing ingredients in Tupperware container or mason jar that seals tightly. Turn on good dance music, and shake vigorously. Okay, the music is optional, but it makes it so much more fun. If you need suggestions, I’ve find it impossible to stay still when this playing:

Place dressing in fridge until you need it again.

2)      Preheat oven to 400°F. Drain garbanzo beans and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Careful pour beans on to a clean towel and rub gently with another towel until the beans are completely dry. You will notice that a thin skin comes of the beans, remove as many of these as you can. Toss the beans with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes until the beans are crispy.

3)      Begin making the tuna cakes by place 2 slices of roughly torn bread, one small shallot, and 1/4 cup parsley leaves in a small food processor. Process until you have seasoned bread crumbs.

4)      In a large bowl, flake drained tuna and mix with bread crumbs. Stir in mayonnaise and horseradish as well as additional salt and pepper.

5)     Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties about half and inch thick.

6)      Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Carefully place tuna patties in the pan and cook on the first side for 4-5 minutes.

7)      Carefully flip the patties and cover with a lid. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

8)      Place a heaping portion of fresh babe spinach on a serving plate and sprinkle with garbanzo beans and shredded cheese. Place 1 (for small salad course) or 2 (for a main course) tuna cakes on top. Drizzle with mustard vinaigrette and serve.

Hazelnut Crusted Tilapia

It is really disappointing when you receive your meal at a restaurant and it barely resembles the mouth watering description you read on the menu. I recently went out with friends to celebrate a bachelorette weekend. Before a fabulous night at the local dueling piano bar we stopped for a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. The minute my eyes settled on the pistachio crusted grouper with Moroccan cous cous (with artichokes) and asparagus I was sold. I love nut crusted fish and artichokes and asparagus. It’s like the chef knew I was coming.

Then I got my plate. The asparagus consisted of maybe two stalks cut on the bias, over-cooked, and sprinkled over the fish. The cous cous, while flavorful, didn’t taste much different than the flavor packet that comes in the instant Near East cous cous. And the artichokes? Two leaves mixed into the cous cous. There was still hope for the fish. It certainly looked promising. The first taste revealed otherwise. The fish was bland, and the “crust” was soft and mushy, like it had spent 5 minutes too many under the heat lamp.

I am amazed that such a basic dish was so poorly made. Nut crusted fish isn’t hard, not at all! The method is the same whether you use pistachios, almonds, or any other nut. Here, let me show you.

Hazelnut tilapia with mac and cheese and roasted broccoli

Hazelnut Crusted Tilapia

2 tilapia fillets
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
Juice from half a lemon (about 1.5 tablespoons)
.75 cup shelled hazelnuts
.5 cup panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Garlic powder, about 1 teaspoon
Salt and pepper

1)      In an oven preheated to 350°F, roast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, using a clean towel rub off the skins from the hazelnuts. Set aside to cool for several minutes.

2)      Whisk lemon juice and mayo together in a small bowl. Add garlic, and salt and pepper as suits your tastes.

3)      Place roasted hazelnuts in a small food processor and pulse several times until they reach a course grind. Add rosemary and panko bread crumbs and pulse several more times. Pour into a shallow dish that comfortable fits an entire fillet of fish.

4)      Spread the mayo mixture over one side of the tilapia. It should be spread on just thick enough that you don’t see much of the fish beneath the coating.

5)      Carefully place the fish, coated side down, into the hazelnut mixture and press gently.

6)      While the fish is still in the hazelnut mixture, carefully coat the other side of the fish. Flip the fish, and press into the hazelnut mixture.

7)      Repeat steps 4-6 for the other fillet.

8)      In a pan large enough to hold both fillets, pour a thin layer of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Place both fillets in the pan and cook for about 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish.