Friday, April 29, 2011

Quick Quesadilla

No one likes Hospital Food, so of course I bring something tasty every time I visit. This time I thought, what with the boring repetition of meals like "pot roast" hockey pucks in molten brown goo, I'd spice things up a little bit and make a quick Mexican quesadilla.

First I spray what will be the outside of the flour tortilla with a bit of olive oil cooking spray and place that side down in a non-stick skillet.
I start it (in the cold skillet) with a layer of sliced muenster cheese, and then added a mixture of leftover roast chicken and tomatoes. 
Notice: only on one side of the tortilla.
Since transplant patients cannot have raw fruit or vegetables, I washed the tomatoes well, chopped them, seasoned them with salt, and then sautéed them in a bit of olive oil and a few tablespoons of chicken stock for about 3-4 minutes, until the liquid has boiled and basically evaporated. When it is almost evaporated I toss in the chicken, fresh cilantro (no raw fresh herbs...sigh), and a pinch of cumin. This way everything is flavorful, and the tomatoes have cooked enough to  kill anything nasty but still have most of their fresh tomato taste.

Another sneaky tip:
Instead of buying a can of black beans that needs seasoning and effort, I buy a can of black bean soup (I like Goya's) and sift some of the beans out with a fork. Then I get to have the soup later as well, and I admit my favorite part of black bean soup has always been the broth, so if it's not jam-packed with beans when I eat it, I'm not displeased.
Sprinkle the beans over the chicken, tomatoes, and cheese.
Top with more muenster cheese, fold the other half of the tortilla over, and crank the heat to medium-high.
Cook until you see the cheese starting to melt and then flip.

When all the cheese is melted and the tortilla has gotten browned and crispy, you know you're ready to eat.
Or in this case, wrap it in some tinfoil and run it up to the hospital!
This would also make a good picnic lunch with the warm weather starting to show its sunny face.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Shrimp & Chorizo Quinoa

This was a quick lunch I made using a few leftovers, a few pantry staples, and some fresh herbs.
Ingredients: cooked quinoa, broccoli, chorizo, shrimp, and fresh mint.
Set your (well-rinsed) quinoa to cook before starting on the rest.

I start by cooking up some broccoli florets.
I add a bit of olive oil to the pan, add the broccoli, a splash of water, a pinch of salt, and cook lid-on on medium-high heat until starting to steam (about 3-4 minutes or to your preferred degree of tenderness.)
Then remove the lid and cook off remaining water.

Next I add more olive oil to the pan and sauté the Spanish chorizo, allowing the seasoning and fat to mingle with the olive oil in the pan.

When it's time to flip the chorizo to the second side I add a few defrosted raw shrimp into the mix, and add another pinch of salt (largely on the shrimp). Cook the shrimp about 2-3 minutes per side until opaque and firm.
(Odd shapes are the stem of the broccoli with the tough outer layer peeled off and then sliced.)

Season the cooked quinoa with olive oil and salt to taste and place in the bottom of your dish.

Add fresh mint to the pan, stir, and serve on top of the quinoa.

The whole meal takes about 15 minutes to make and is packed with protein and flavor.
If you have leftover quinoa already in your fridge, it takes about 10 minutes.
It travels quite well and the flavors will meld if you choose to make it ahead and bring it to work.
Try it out!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tangy Asian Tenderloin

So remember when I wrote about the Tangy Asian Chicken Thighs that I just could not stop eating? No? Ok well look back here.

I knew when I created the marinade that it would be brilliant on pork as well, and last night I tested my theory. And I was right. SO good.
And the same proportions used on 6 chicken thighs worked on one 1.25 pound tenderloin.
3 TBSP honey
2 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
3 cloves of garlic, grated
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated

For my basic How To on cooking a pork tenderloin, see here.

Step one: marinate a few hrs in the fridge. 
Looks kinda gross, I know, but it will be so tasty in the end.

Take the meat out of the fridge and LET IT COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE
Preheat your oven to 400º and set your pan to medium heat w/ just enough olive oil that your meat won't stick. I was using a non-stick pan, so I only used a small drizzle.

Slapdash photo, I know.
Cook on the first side seven minutes.
Then flip and place pan in the oven for another seven minutes.
Remove from pan and let rest, and place the leftover marinade in the hot pan to reduce to a delicious sauce. Remember to cover the pot handle with something, as that sucker has been in a 400º oven.

Super crap photo. Apologies.
Just like last time I served this with some seasoned quinoa, and roasted a mix of broccoli and cauliflower, because that's what I had goin' on in my fridge.

For the quinoa (keen-wah): follow package instructions, and when it is done but still in the hot pan, I sprinkle in some kosher salt and good olive oil. For this meal, I also mixed about a tablespoon of honey with a tablespoon of soy sauce, and poured that mixture over the hot quinoa and stirred well to combine. That made it so the quinoa also had a sweet and tangy flavor that tied it into the meal, but not the ginger/garlic bite that the pork had.

For the mixed veg: cut up your stalks into medium sized florets, drizzle with olive oil and salt, and roast in a 400-425º oven for 20 minutes. Done.

I don't know if this is like the time I was ordering spring rolls from the local Thai place 2-3 times a week for a solid month before OD-ing on them, but I cannot get enough of this marinade at the moment.
And the leftover pork would make a killer sandwich... maybe a panini on ciabatta with some extra sauce and some grilled eggplant. Hmmm... will have to look into that in the future ;)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tea For ?

How cute is this?
A sweet little teapot that reminds me of some kind of helpful pachyderm... that happens to have an ergonomic knob coming out where its ear should be.
But still, adorable, and available here.

However, if this coffee pot matches your kitchen decor, something tells me you don't actually need the coffee to wake you up in the morning.

(Available at the same store, also in red.)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leftovers: Roast Chicken & Pesto

I may well have posted this before, but I don't think it was because I had leftover chicken.
I think it was just a Summer-y pasta dish.
This time, I had the never-ending roast chicken leftovers, and a little mozzarella cheese, so I went back to this warm weather staple pasta dish.

While your pasta is cooking in its salted boiling water, combine in a large bowl all your shredded chicken, remaining mozzarella (I had about 1/4 of a bundle left) and roughly 1/3 of a cup of (preferably homemade) pesto.
I went with traditional Genovese basil & pine nut pesto, but I'm sure this would be lovely with whatever your favorite version is, even if that includes walnuts and mint.
Unless you were serving it to me.
In which case you should know better.
(I really hate walnuts.)

My pesto was rather tight, so I drizzled the mixture with some good olive oil before mixing it all together.
Note: this dish would also work with ricotta cheese, so if you have the last quarter of your container in your fridge with no clue what to do with so little, feel free to substitute it here.

Add hot pasta.
Toss to coat and combine.
Use a splash of pasta water if you want a little more of a "sauce" feel.
Grate a little pecorino over the top, and call it dinner delicious.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Potato Leek Poundage

"Poundage" because this soup is packed with some extras to help put some weight back on my dad. Most people are usually trying take off a few pounds here and there, but if you have someone you love who has been ill and has lost weight, this is a very comforting soup that can help bulk them back up.
I brought this to the hospital the other day (really, any outside food is appreciated if you're stuck in the hospital) and it was a hit.

I started out with a typical potato-leek soup recipe: 2 medium leeks and one small onion, chopped and sweating in olive oil and about 3 TBSP of butter. (Remember, I'm trying to make this rich!)
Season with salt once they have started to sweat and soften.
Then I added about 1/2 cup of white wine and let that simmer for a few minutes.

To that I added about 6 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes. (Next time I think I will use a mixture of Idaho potatoes and Yukon Golds, just for a different flavor and texture.) Top with about 4 cups of chicken stock, or however much it takes to cover the potatoes.

An odd addition to this was a can of white beans, because while I was trying to make this a calorie-heavy soup, I also wanted some nutrition to it. The beans add both protein and fiber.
Lastly I threw in a bay leaf for good measure and set the pot to simmer, lid on, for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes were soft enough to purée.
(Remove the bay leaf first!)
Once puréed (I find an immersion blender is easiest), I added about 1/4 cup of grated cheddar cheese (because that's how much I had left) about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, and about 3/4 of a cup of mascarpone cheese instead of cream (made in Vermont, so pasteurized and therefore transplant-safe.) Season with salt (or garlic salt if you prefer) to taste.

Garnish with chopped chives (and yes, that has a dollop of mascarpone in it as well) and you're all set.
Another tasty garnish option is a drizzle of good olive oil.
Those options of course was not enough for me tho, so I crisped up some prosciutto and used that as the extra garnish for the portion I brought to my dad.

Cute note: While he was happily chowing down on his soup, he stopped and looked at me and said,
 "Wait, you said this is potato leek soup, right?" 
To which I replied in the affirmative.
"But, there's meat in it."
"I thought you'd like that little extra touch, Dad."
"Oh... it's good!" and he kept eating.
He has no idea just how many "extras" I put in his soup for him.
Whatever works!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Teriyaki Burgers

This recipe came about while I was trying to come up with meals to make for my father who, after a recent lung transplant, now has a circumscribed diet: No meat that is not cooked all the way thru (goodbye rare steak!), no unpasteurized cheeses, no deli meats, and no raw fruits or vegetables. The trick I'm trying to work on is how to make well-done steaks, burgers, and pork still be juicy and flavorful for a man who used to order his steaks all-but still mooing.

Happily, this recipe was a total success.
Since I was making this to be stored in the freezer for multiple easy dinners for my parents I used 2 lbs of ground beef, which is enough to serve 6-7 people.
 (Make sure the beef is 80-85% lean, if not fattier. You need the fat for flavor!)

To the ground beef add just shy 1 cup of teriyaki marinade, 6 small scallions finely diced, & 2 inches of grated fresh ginger root.

The dark stuff is the ginger that has soaked in teriyaki.
Mix well and form into patties.

If there is extra liquid at the bottom of your bowl, pour it out and use less next time. Too much liquid will make the burgers fall apart before you can cook them. 
If they really seem too damp to you, add 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs to absorb a bit and 1 egg to bind the mixture before forming the patties.

(Yes, when I made this a second time I was left with one runt... which was a delicious snack! Or alternately, a test burger to make sure it's to your liking.)
Ideally you want these to sit and marinate for a few hours before cooking them so the flavors can really sink into the meat.

The result should be some very zippy and juicy burgers, even if you've cooked them to well-done.
I served this up on a sesame brioche bun with some agave & ginger carrot sticks instead of fries because a) I didn't have any potatoes on hand and b) I really love fresh ginger, so it wasn't overkill for me at all.
If fresh ginger is too strong for you, halve the amount you put in your burgers for a subtler zing.
If you know anyone who has to have their meat well-done, try this out.
It's a winner. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We Are Not Weekend "Warriors"

More like Weekend Snugglers.
This past weekend the hubs and I escaped from the city to relax at my family's house down the shore. The water had been turned back on after a frigid winter, but there was still no phone, no internet, and no cable. It was just us and the sound of the waves, some books... and maybe a DVD or two that we brought along for good measure.

All photos taken via iPhone
One of the biggest requirements for our weekend was to build a fire in a fireplace that has been dormant for roughly the last decade. The flue was largely rusted, but open, so our fire drew nicely, and it set the scene for a snuggly evening.

As the house has been empty since September, there was no food that we did not bring in ourselves. (Not even a Maggie Cube in the pantry.) Thank goodness for Joe Leone's amazing selections. We were "roughing it" with things like homemade pasta, mozzarella, ciabatta, and seafood salad.
That is my kind of "roughing" it.

After a rainy Friday, we woke up to this on Saturday morning.
I think 55º and sunny may be my new favorite beach weather.

After a few hours spent with my extended family at a lovely baby shower for my cousin (the real impetus for our weekend journey) we took a bundled-up walk on the beach, and I have decided this year is the year of the snail shell.
Every year seems to have one particular shell or item that washes up more than anything else. Some years it's periwinkles, others lady slippers. I'm putting it out that that this year will be snail shells.

And, apparently, dead Christmas trees.

There was one other magical element to our weekend, and that is that I found a very special pasta while at the aforementioned Joe Leone's, which Mike and I had in Florence while on our honeymoon.
Four cheese & pear fiocchi - little drawstring purses of deliciousness.
Find it.

Poor iPhone photography
Served in a simple sage brown butter sauce, it was sublime.

It would have been equally delicious simply dressed in a good infused olive oil.
I went the more decadent route because it's what we had on hand.
Oh darn!

This meal, in front of a roaring fireplace, and watching "Clue" (which we watched together on our first date) made for a wonderful stolen weekend.
I suggest making time for one of your own in the near future.

We're totally going back for Spring Break.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Totally Pointless

Just in case anyone here doesn't know, the term "April Fool" was coined for the people who were resistant or slow to changing to the new Gregorian calendar in the 16th century (which accounted for the difference of 11 seconds of each vernal equinox from year to year by incorporating "leap day", without which over a few hundred years would throw it off by over a week) but the REAL point was that it declared New Year's Day to be January 1st, not April first.
Anyone who had not adopted the new calendar was referred to as "An April Fool".

But as far as the more modern usage of an April Fool's joke or prank, the item below might work for a gift.
Because really, even as a gift for "the person who has everything" who the hell needs silver-plated mussel extractors???

If it's THAT hard to remove the mussel, you didn't cook it correctly and shouldn't eat it anyway.
And what if you get some of those ginormous mussels? They won't fit in there!
They should at least come in varying sizes if you want to pretend that these are practical.
However, if you need to keep your dainty digits clean while scarfing your shellfish and you just can't live without one, you can find them here.