Monday, February 27, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Orzo

I have already professed my love for roasted vegetables on this blog. In addition to eating the roasted vegetables by themselves, I love to add them to pasta for a delicious side dish or quick dinner. You can use any vegetables you have on hand. This is also a wonderful use for leftover vegetables.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo
original recipe by Eating Deliciously

1 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 medium yellow squash, cut into ½ inch pieces
½ pound green beans, ends trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
2 pints grape tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound orzo
¼ cup minced parsley

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

On a large baking sheet, toss the zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, and grape tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown. Halfway through cooking turn the vegetables over with a spatula to make sure they cook evenly.

While the vegetables roast, cook the orzo as directed on the package. Drain pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the bowl; be sure to add all the accumulated liquid from the baking sheet. Add the minced parsley, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently to combine. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle with additional olive oil.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Italian Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Subs

The start of baseball's spring training reminds me of the delicious Italian sausage subs available at my local ballpark. I cannot resist the sweet and spicy scent that greets my nose whenever I am walking through the concourse on the way to my seat. My favorite ballpark sub has fresh Italian fennel sausage on a fresh sub roll loaded with grilled peppers and onions, and topped with spicy brown mustard. The recipe below captures the flavor perfectly. Now if only our frigid weather would warm up!

Italian Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Subs
recipe adapted from Rachael Ray

4 sweet Italian sausages with fennel
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup chicken stock or dry white wine
2 cubanelle peppers, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
4 crusty sub rolls, split
Spicy mustard, for serving

Prick sausages with a fork. Place Italian sausages in a large skillet and add 1 inch of water. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet, 1 turn of the pan. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat a little. Allow all the liquid to cook away, then brown and crisp the casings, 5 to 6 minutes. Deglaze the pan with stock or wine and cook it off, 1 minute. Remove sausages to a platter.

While sausage cooks, slice the peppers and onions and prepare the garlic. Once the Italian sausage comes out of the pan, add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add peppers and onions, season with salt and pepper and cook 10 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Slice sausages on an angle. Fill each roll with a peppers and onions then the sliced sausages and spicy mustard.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cherry Coke Cupcakes

There is just something about birthdays that scream cake to me. It may have something to do with the fact that I will use any excuse to have a little extra dessert. I'm pretty sure that birthday cake, or cupcakes in this case, are calorie free. I stumbled across this recipe searching for a sweet treat to make for my dad's birthday. 

Cherry Coke Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Annie's Eats originally adapted from Coco Bean

For the cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
¾ cup Cherry Coke
¼ cup maraschino cherry juice
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze (optional):
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon Cherry Coke
1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

For topping:
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a muffin pan with foil or paper liners. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter. Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg until incorporated. In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, Coke, maraschino cherry juice, and vanilla extract; stir to combine. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled.

Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture on low speed, alternately with the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the optional glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and Coke in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon or drizzle a small amount of the top of each cupcake. Allow to set.

To make the whipped cream topping, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin whipping on medium speed, slowly adding the confectioners’ sugar and gradually increasing the speed to high as the cream holds soft peaks. Whip until the cream holds stiff peaks, being careful not to overbeat. Spoon or pipe the whipped cream on top of the cupcakes and top each with a maraschino cherry.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Pappa al Pomodoro

I came across this recipe searching for a way to use up some stale bread. I usually make Sausage and Cheddar Breakfast Casserole with leftover bread but my husband cannot understand eating breakfast for dinner. I have used bits bread to thicken up my Roasted Tomato Soup but I had almost an entire loaf of bread that needed using. I've always heard about the Italian soup Pappa al Pomodoro or Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup and thought it would be perfect. The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes but this being winter, the tomatoes are not very tasty. I opted to use 3 cans of diced tomatoes instead of fresh. I plan to try this again in the summer with fresh tomatoes when my beloved farmer's market returns.

Pappa al Pomodoro
recipe slightly adapted from Oven Love originally adapted from Feasts and Fotos

1 large red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
3 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
20 basil leaves, minced
6 ounce can V8 vegetable juice
½ cup heavy cream
2 cups day old bread, crusts removed and cubed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Coat a large wide pot with olive oil over medium heat, add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the wine and simmer until it has reduced by half.  Stir in the tomatoes with their juices and basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper; cook the soup over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Add the vegetable juice, heavy cream and the bread cubes.  Continue to cook the soup for another 15-20 minutes, allowing the bread to break down.  Use an immersion blender or blender and puree the soup until all the bread cubes are fully incorporated. 

Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over the soup and serve.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder

The winter weather has finally arrived in my neck of the woods. The temperature has dipped below zero, and all I want to eat are hot bowls of delicious soup. I love this recipe because I can throw in whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand. The taste is fantastic and it only takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

Cheesy Vegetable Chowder
recipe slightly adapted from Lulu The Baker

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon flour (I used Wondra but all-purpose flour is fine)
½ cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large soup pot. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes. Add the stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are tender.  

Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened. Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through. Stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding

Slightly sweetened warm rice pudding is perfect for those days when the temperature drops below freezing. I like to cook the rice overnight in my slow cooker until it is tender. In the morning, I add the egg, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and allow the pudding to finish cooking while we are out enjoying all the wonderful outdoor activities that accompany wintery weather.

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding
recipe courtesy of A Year of Slow Cooking

4 cups whole or 2% milk
½ cup long grain white rice
½ cup sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Spray the stoneware insert of a 2 to 4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine the milk, rice, and sugar. Stir well and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or high for about 4 until rice is bite-tender.

When the rice is tender, combine egg, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Scoop ¼ cup of the hot rice mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk together. Keep adding ¼ cup of the rice and milk mixture into the egg bowl until about half of the milk and rice mixture is gone from the slow cooker. Then pour everything back into the pot. Stir well. Please don’t skip this step or your eggs will scramble when you add them to the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Stir well, then take the lid off of the cooker and unplug it. When the rice pudding is room temperature, you can refrigerate it. Serve warm or cold with a sprinkle of cinnamon for garnish.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chicken in Tomato-Basil Broth with Couscous

This is a quick weeknight dinner that is impressive enough for last minute company.

Chicken in Tomato-Basil Broth with Couscous

1 box of pearl couscous
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to ½ inch thickness
Salt, pepper, dried Italian herbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ small onion, chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
Handful of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade
Fresh mozzarella, optional

Cook couscous according to package directions

Season chicken with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a dish and keep warm.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to your pan if it is dry. Add garlic and onions; sauté 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sauté 2 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and stir into ingredients for about 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and half of your basil. Bring to a steady simmer. Return chicken to the pan and let simmer 5 minutes.

Serve over couscous, top with the tomato broth, basil, and the fresh mozzarella, if desired.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

This rich and creamy soup is sure to keep you warm during the remaining six weeks of winter.

Butternut Squash Soup
recipe adapted from Emeril LaGasse

1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved, seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ cup heavy cream
Homemade croutons, for serving
2 tablespoons chopped chives, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Lightly coat the squash halves with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Season the inside with salt and pepper and place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until very tender, about 45 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and reserve. Discard the peel.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat add the remaining olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions wilted and starting to caramelize, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and marjoram, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the cooked squash and chicken stock, stir well to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

With a hand-held immersion blender, or in batches in a blender, puree the soup. If you want a very smooth soup, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean saucepan. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Add the cream and adjust seasoning, to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with homemade croutons and chopped chives, if desired.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sugar and Nut Glazed Brie

This appetizer was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture until it was almost gone. I promise it looked a lot prettier when it came out of the oven. I used the Brie Baker from Crate & Barrel and it worked perfectly.

Sugar and Nut Glazed Brie
recipe slightly adapted from Paula Deen

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts (macadamia nuts, walnuts or pecans)
1 heaping tablespoon Captain Morgan spiced rum (brandy or cognac)
1 (14-ounce) round brie
Apple wedges, for serving
Pear wedges, for serving
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
French bread, sliced for serving

In a small bowl stir together the sugar, nuts, and rum. Cover and chill for at least 24 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Place the brie on an ovenproof platter or pie plate. Bake for 5 minutes or until the brie is slightly softened. Spread the sugar mixture in an even layer on top of the warm brie and bake for 3 minutes longer, or until the sugar melts.

Brush the fruit wedges with lemon juice and arrange them on a serving platter with the French bread slices.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille

I happened to catch Disney's Ratatouille while I was trying to recover from my evil cold last week. Every time I watch that movie I am inspired to get my butt in the kitchen and cook something delicious. In the summer I like to make a Grilled Ratatouille Salad but this time I really wanted the layer of tomato sauce and bright circle of veggies that Remy makes in the movie. I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and I was very happy to discover I am not the only person inspired by a cartoon rat. 

Ratatouille's Ratatouille
recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately ¼ inch thick.

Arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have some leftover slices that that do not fit.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs and sprinkle the leaves over the vegetables. Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp or brown at the edges. The tomato sauce will bubble up around the vegetables.

Serve on top of Polenta with Fresh Corn or a grain of your choice.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Polenta with Fresh Corn

Feel free to use defrosted frozen corn in place of fresh if it is not in season. I prefer to use fresh corn that was frozen at the height of the season. To make your own freezer corn, remove the husks and rinse the cobs to remove any remaining silks. Stand each ear in a large shallow bowl and cut the kernels from the cobs. Blanch the kernels in boiling water for 5 to 6 minutes then remove the kernels to a ice water bath to cool down. When the corn is cooled, remove from the ice water and pat dry. Fill a zip-top freezer bag about half full, remove the excess air, and zip the bag closed. Flatten out the bag of corn and label the bag with the contents and date. Transfer the bags to the freezer and enjoy the flavor of fresh corn no matter what season it is.

Polenta with Fresh Corn
recipe adapted from Pink Parsley

1 cup medium-grind cornmeal or polenta
Kosher salt
1 ¼ cup water, divided
1 ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock, divided
4 ears corn
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring 4 cups of water and 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan with ½ teaspoon kosher salt.  Mix the remaining ¼ cup of each together in a liquid measuring cup and set aside. 

In a slow stream, whisk the cornmeal into the boiling water, whisking constantly.  To prevent lumps, continue to whisk constantly as the mixture returns to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer.  Every 10 minutes or so, stir the polenta with a wooden spoon.  If it seems too thick and is getting hard to stir, add a little of the reserved water/stock mixture and stir to incorporate.

Meanwhile, remove the husks and silk from the corn.  Stand each ear in a large shallow bowl and cut the kernels from the cobs. 

When the polenta has been cooking for about 20 minutes, stir in the corn.  Continue to cook an additional 10 minutes or so, until the corn is tender and cooked through.  Alternatively, cook the corn using your preferred method and stir it in at the end of the cooking time.

Stir in the butter, and stir until melted.  Remove the pan from heat and stir in the cream, basil, and cheese.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If the polenta is too thick, stir in more broth.  Serve immediately garnished with freshly ground black pepper.