Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan and Marcona Almonds

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ok yes, admittedly I'm using the Parmesan a bit lately. But I still have a shitload left over from Parmageddon at my local Whole Foods, so I'm trying to work through it all...

The latest fabulous side dish created was this recipe involving broccoli! Yes, I said broccoli. Now here's the deal: even if you don't like broccoli per se, it's probably because you haven't been eating properly prepared broccoli. Chances are it's been overcooked, which basically tastes like shit. Steamed -- boring. Tossed in ubiquitous Asian sauce with protein -- overly done. Give roasting the broccoli a try, and if you still hate it then I can't help you.

Based on a fabulous recipe by Ina Garten, I use her super simple technique of tossing fresh broccoli (do NOT use frozen for this!) I cut into florets in some olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, then roasting in the oven for a super quick 15 minutes. The broccoli becomes tender but still holds good shape, and the edges begin to caramelize into this gorgeous, slightly crunchy nutty flavored goodness. I toss the still-warm broccoli with some fresh garlic and a little zest of lemon, then top with a heap of freshly grated parmesan and some irresistible Marcona almonds for crunch. This is great with any protein as a side dish (think grilled meats or roasted chicken), or even on its own!

Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan and Marcona Almonds
2 heads broccoli
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, very extremely thinly sliced
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 - 1/3 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp marcona almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (425 if less powerful).

Take the broccoli and cut off the tops into florets; you can also slice the stem into bite-sized pieces or discard (or save to make broccoli soup). Toss in olive oil -- enough to coat but not be soggy -- and season with salt and pepper. Lay out on a baking sheet and pop in oven. Roast until tender, and edges are beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes. You'll want to shake the pan and turn the broccoli at least once during cooking.

Remove from oven and place in a large mixing bowl. Immediately add the garlic, zest, and about half of the cheese and toss well to combine. Turn out into a serving plate and add remaining cheese for garnish along with the almonds sprinkled on top. Serve immediately.

Week Night Yum Yum: Turkey Cutlet --The New Fried Chicken Easy Dinner!

Friday, May 24, 2013

 All right, sometimes we all crave something crispy and a little naught on the health spectrum. For me, this usually involves fried chicken. To make it easier, I'll do a schnitzel because that was one of the first dishes I learned to make mostly because it was the only dish my mother could make decently. However, that said, I get bored from the usual chicken schnitzel Romanian style. Sometimes I want something more, something different, something....interesting. So, I saw turkey cutlets at the store and the idea formed itself: turkey cutlets breaded schnitzel style with parmesan added to the breadcrumbs, fried to perfection and served with an amazing salad on the side. Done and done. Voila! This amazing dish was born.

This is a wonderful meal that comes together pretty quickly, making it perfect for a busy week night. You'll feel slightly guilty with the fried panko and parmesan topping, but you'll taste one bite and get over it quickly. Bonus -- the colorful and super healthy kale and corn salad will help put you to ease. The kids and husby adored this dish, and I'm already being summoned to make it again. Do it!

Turkey Cutlet with Panko and Parmesan
4 turkey cutlets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 1 cup all purpose flour
1 extra large egg (you might need 2 if using smaller ones), lightly beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
vegetable or canola oil for frying

Recipe for Kale and Corn Salad click here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on top (preferably).

Take the cutlets and using a mallet, tenderize the cutlets. Do not obliterate them, but the goal here is to make them a little thinner. Turkey is tougher than chicken or even pork, so you won't get them the thinness of a traditional chicken or pork schnitzel; do your best and just get the meat a little bit thinner as much as you can without destroying the meat.

Season both sides with salt and pepper.

Now, traditionally I would set up a station for breading -- one shallow bowl for flour, one for egg, one for breadcrumbs. However, in my wisdom as a mother of three, I've found using those gallon sized plastic bags for the flour and breadcrumbs part is infinitely less of a mess and goes faster. Up to you. Either way, place the flour is one container; the egg lightly beaten in another, and combine the panko with the parmesan in another.

Heat a heavy frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add enough oil to thinly cover the bottom of the pan. I like using a heavy cast iron skillet for this. It's important that you get the oil a perfect temperature for a perfect fry -- too hot and it'll burn the panko, too cold and you'll get a soggy cutlet. You know it's ready for frying when you can hold your palm of your hand over the top about 8 inches high for 1-2 seconds before you feel you need to move your hand.

Take a cutlet and dredge it in the flour -- meaning, cover it completely and totally in the flour. Remove and dust off any excess flour, then bath it in the egg, coating all sides. Promptly remove and dunk into the breadcrumb mixture, making sure to again cover all angles. Promptly take out and add to oil to fry. As that side is frying quickly being the next cutlet -- flour, egg, breadcrumbs again -- and add to the pan. As the second one is coming, it's probably time to turn the first one over on its other side. You want a nice golden crust on both sides. As the first cutlet is golden on both sides, remove and set on the wire rack on the baking sheet. Keep repeating this with the rest of the cutlets until all four are fried and on the wire rack.

Pop the cutlets in the oven to finish cooking through, about 5 minutes. Because the turkey is thicker, you'll probably have to finish them in the oven like this; working with thinner chicken or pork you could skip this step.

Serve piping hot with a wedge of lemon if desired to be squeezed on top. Serve with the corn and kale salad.

Kale and Corn Salad: A Perfect Side Dish

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I was staring at a bunch of kale and wondering how I could use it in a different way. I wanted something light, something colorful. My eyes went straight to the fresh corn and boom! This delicious salad was born!

Fresh corn is husked and cut off the cob then lightly sautéed in a little olive oil with some garlic, then tossed with some lightly sautéed kale. Finely chopped red onion add crunch and spicy flavor, while a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a light hand of more olive oil bring the salad together. This is meant to be served as a warm salad but it also tastes great cold. It's perfect on its own or to serve with any protein. Try it with my turkey cutlet recipe!

Kale and Corn Salad
1 bunch kale, washed and leaves torn from stem
3 ears of corn, husked
1/4 cup (about 1/4) red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Take the kale and chop it up into larger bite-sized pieces, about 1.5 inches large. Take the corn and cut the kernels off the cob; set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the kale and season with a little salt and pepper (helps to wilt the kale), and cook on medium-low heat until just wilted. Cover with the lid of the pan to help create a steam effect, aiding in the wilting. Stir often so as not to burn the kale. The kale will turn a bright, deep green color and wilt down; as soon as it does this, remove it from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan add another tablespoon of olive oil (you'll notice the kale will absorb the prior oil used, leaving a dry pan). Add the corn kernels and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook the corn on medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 7-8 minutes. The corn will turn bright yellow and become tender. The natural sugars in the corn will also release, lightly caramelizing the corn. This is why we use fresh corn for this! Add the kale back into the pan along with the garlic, and mix to combine. Cook another 2 minutes or so then remove mixture into a large mixing bowl.

While the corn and kale still quite warm, add the red onion, lemon juice, and another good drizzle of oil. Mix and taste, then adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to your taste. Serve warm or at room temperature (or even cold).

Strawberry Bread with Spiced Walnut Crumb Topping

Strawberries are beginning to come into full force in my local markets. And my garden is beginning to flower the sweet berries as well, much to my (and the kids') delight! We picked up a large batch from the local Whole Foods the other day and wanted to make something special with them. The nasty weather outside has us indoor bound, so Little Girl and Little Boy had the brilliant idea to bake a strawberry bread!

Here's the deal with baking with strawberries. You know that amazing sweet, slightly tart flavor they have when you eat them fresh? That sort of disappears when you bake with them; they tend to lose that tartness and rather go decidedly sweet leaving an irresistible strawberry essence flavor more than a powerful, impact of the sweet/tart you're used to when eating them fresh. Just an FYI in case you were mentally expecting something out of this.

Since the strawberries will lose some of their potency during baking, I decided to use some strawberry-flavored Greek yogurt in the batter. The flavor was amazing, and the subtle strawberry flavor was carried over beautifully throughout the cake between the yogurt and fresh sliced berries folded in. Vanilla and some freshly grated orange zest helped round out the flavors well. On the top, I was inspired by the Greek yogurt and decided to go to Greece again, using the traditional walnut filling for a baklava instead as a crumb topping on top of the bread! Crunchy walnuts mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and the smallest pinch of clove was a perfect spicy balance to the sweetness of the strawberry bread. This was a huge hit in the house. I love serving it with more sliced fresh strawberries on top for a perfect morning breakfast! Enjoy it!

Strawberry Bread with Spiced Walnut Crumb Topping
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp grated orange zest (can sub with lemon if you like)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
3/4 cup strawberry flavored greek yogurt (recommend: Greek Gods strawberry honey yogurt)
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
for the topping:
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (raw)
1 tsp white granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bread loaf pan (or spray with baking spray) and set aside. Yes you must do this so the bread can release easily from the pan and not burn.

Mix the topping first. Combine the walnuts, sugar, and spices in a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter on medium speed for a couple of minutes, then add the sugar and cream butter and sugar together until color lightens to a pale yellow and consistency looks "fluffy" -- about 5-8 minutes more. Turn mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Turn the mixer on medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time, to mix in. You want to mix the mixture until each egg is just incorporated through before adding the next egg. Add the orange zest and vanilla to the mixture and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add half of the yogurt and mix, then another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the final amount of yogurt, then end with a final 1/3 of the flour mixture. You want to work relatively quickly so as not to overbeat the batter. Overmixing will give you a tougher bread. Mix until just incorporated through, then turn mixer off. Add the fresh strawberries and using a spatula, fold them into the batter by hand. If you add the strawberries and put the mixer on, it will pulverize the strawberries and you won't get those chunks in the bread. (Conversely, if that's your goal then go ahead and mix them quickly in). The batter will be quite thick (not runny like a cake or box mix batter).

Go ahead and transfer the batter into the buttered bread pan. Then sprinkle the walnut topping evenly right on top. Place in oven and bake at 350 for about 35 minutes, or until top and sides are golden and a cake tester comes out clean. (cake tester = stick a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean it's done; if it comes out with batter on it then it still needs to cook)

Let stand in pan 10 minutes before taking out. Let cool before slicing. To serve, slice a thick slice and top with more sliced fresh strawberries if desired. Goes amazing with coffee or tea for a perfect breakfast or brunch!

Will keep in an air-tight container or in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Asparagus is just beginning its prime. You'll find them more prominently displayed at your local markets now, and usually pretty affordable as well. I love asparagus -- super easy to prepare, low in calories and yields itself to a variety of dishes, even satisfyingly by itself. I prepare asparagus in a variety of ways, but this is one of my all time favorites. Simply seasoned with quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, I roast the asparagus for that perfect al dente texture. Right out of the oven I hit them with a generous fresh grating of imported parmesan cheese, and a good squeeze of lemon juice. The warmth of the asparagus will just begin to melt the cheese right on top.
This is a perfect side dish this spring and summer to go along with most anything, from roasted chicken to a perfect summer BBQ, steamed fish to grilled pork loin. But honestly, they won't even make it that far. A quick taste after the parm and lemon and I guarantee you'll eat them before they even make it to the table! Enjoy!
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon and Parmesan
1 bunch asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
course sea salt (recommend: Celtic sea salt or Fleur de Sel)
coarsely ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut in half
wedge good quality, imported Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Take the asparagus and wash them, then cut off the touch ends of the stems. Discard. Toss the asparagus in a little olive oil (enough to coat) and layer out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then roast in oven until bright green and just beginning to caramelize on the outer edges, about 10-15 minutes (cooking time will depend on your oven's strength; if yours is more powerful you may need to reduce temperature down to 375). Shake the pan a couple of times during roasting to move the asparagus around.
Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a plate or serving platter. Squeeze lemon directly on top of the asparagus, then grate a generous portion of the cheese right on top. You want a really good dusting of the cheese, so don't be shy! Serve immediately.

Game of Thrones Date Night: Pheasant Pie

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ok, I've mentioned this many times -- Schmandrew and I love to stay in and do a date night in our living room. A favorite show, a killer meal, a fantastic bottle of wine (or artisanal beer) and we can enjoy the comforts of home, in our pj's, having our own sort of "carpet picnic" while the kids sleep upstairs. It's a cost-effective way to spend time (no babysitter fee!) and sometimes just more fun (no need for that fancy make up!).

So, one of the shows we're obsessed with is Game of Thrones. I recently was given a couple of pheasants by our friend Phil, who's friend hunts them. I knew straight away I had to make a pheasant pot pie for one of our Game of Thrones date night. The result? Uh-fucking-mazing. I got a lot of inspiration from medieval cooking flavors, using a combination of black pepper and grains of paradise along with fresh herbs (primary sage and rosemary). I used a classic mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) for the base of the stew, and added garlic and bay leaf to round out the savory notes. Sautéed leeks, carrots, and an economical dash of dried currants added the sweetness to balance out the flavors perfectly. The pheasant is gamey -- it yields itself very, very nicely to savory and woodsy flavors like root vegetables, stronger herbs like sage, woodsy notes like mushroom and truffle. Pheasant flavor is strong, so don't be shy about using a heavy hand with other flavors.

I kept the crust simple -- buttery and flakey with a crunch from sea salt right on top. It matched perfectly with the tender, flavored powerhouse underneath it's buttery canopy.

I made the pie in a pie dish -- I love my Emil Henry artisanal dish from Williams-Sonoma -- and laid the pie dough right on top. Baked in the oven until golden brown, we could not wait to dig in and so we did. The above picture of the last piece I had to literally fight Schmandrew for so I could provide you all with some sort of visual for this posting. It was promptly consumed also. This is a great dish to make year-round, especially in fall, winter, and the remaining chilly spring nights we're having as we transition into summer. Make a night of it, adding your favorite bottle of red and toast to your favorite house. Personally, I'm Team Dany. Enjoy!

Pheasant Pie
1 whole pheasant (skinned and cleaned inside and out; your butcher or good friend can do this for you)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped small
1 small white onion (about 1/3 cup's worth), chopped small
1 celery stalk, trimmed and chopped small
1 smaller leek, cut in half and washed, then sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp grains of paradise, ground
smallest pinch (about 1/8 tsp) ground clove or allspice
1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped (or leaves torn by hand)
1 tsp fresh rosemary, roughly chopped (or you can leave it whole also)
2 cups chicken broth (recommend: Swanson's brand)
1 Tbsp dried currants
good splash of heavy cream or half n half + a little more for brushing crust

for the crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 stick unsalted cold butter, cut into cubes
pinch of fine salt (like kosher or fine sea salt)
4 Tbsp ice water (this means water with ice cubes in it, that is very, very, very cold)
course sea salt (for finish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Take the pheasant and rub about 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over it. Season with salt and pepper, then place in a roasting pan or appropriate dish. Roast until meat is tender, about 30-40 minutes. Let stand to cool, then when cool enough to work with, remove the meat off the bone and shred with hands or fork into larger bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Now, make the stew.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan (that has a lid). Add the carrot, onion, and celery and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the leek, garlic and bay leaf and cook another few minutes. Stir often so the garlic doesn't burn (and lower heat if necessary). Add the broth, a little at a time at first, and stir to mix everything to combine. Add the spices and fresh herbs, the pheasant meat you previously se aside, and the currants and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Cover with lid, then lower heat to continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes so flavors can combine. Remove lid and see how much liquid was absorbed; you want about half of the broth to have absorbed into the meat and vegetables. If it hasn't yet, continue to cook with the lid off until the consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Add the cream and stir to combine. Turn off heat and let stand to cool.

To make the pastry crust, place the flour, butter, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the processor on, add the ice water one tablespoon at a time through the feeder tube, and mix until the dough comes together in a bowl. It will happen in seconds. Stop the processor just as the ball is formed. Turn the dough out onto a floured working surface and press it into a flat disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

[Why do we refrigerate? A necessary step...the key to a flaky pastry dough is cold butter. You used cold butter to make the dough, but the processor warmed it up when it got cut into the flour and combined with the water. Chilling the disk for 30 minutes helps the butter get back to optimal cold state, so when the dough is introduced to the oven, the small flecks of butter will melt and infuse the dough, creating that desired flakey texture we love about pastry! Don't skip this step!]

At this point, you can make the dough in advance, and the filling in advance.

When you're ready to put the pie together and cook, simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter your pie dish and pour the stew into the bottom of the dish. Place it on a baking sheet (in case the filling bubbles up and over, it's easier to clean a baking sheet than the bottom of your oven!).

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out until it's wide enough to comfortably fit over your pie dish, with a little overhang for decorative purposes. Transfer the dough right on top of the stew. Make sure you have enough dough to cover up and over the sides of the pie dish, at least halfway. Conversely, you can decoratively crimp the edges as you would a dessert pie if you wish.

Brush the top of the dough lightly with some cream (or you can use an egg wash as well), and sprinkle a little course sea salt on top. Take a knife and cut a small slit in the middle of the pie -- this will help steam escape.

Bake in oven about 40-45 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Let stand five minutes before serving.

Artichokes Oreganata: The Perfect Spring Appetizer

Two of my favorite appetizers are clam and shrimp oreganata. The name "oreganata" basically infers the addition of oregano into the classic fresh bread crumb-garlic-olive oil stuffing that is generously stuffed into the clam (or on top of a shrimp) and then baked until golden. It's wonderful, very simple but packed with flavor, and presents beautifully.
A recent farm order gave me baby artichokes. I decided to adapt the same oreganata idea but this time adding some fresh lemon zest and parmesan cheese into the mixture, then stuffing it into the chokes and baking them until golden. A fresh squeeze of lemon juice right before serving made these simple perfection. And the size and shape of the baby artichokes make them perfect for an appetizer or cocktail party.
You'll need a little prep work in preparing the 'chokes, but it's not too hard. Here's how you take the choke out of a raw artichoke (you can do this with a full size artichoke as well).
1. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise, and trim off the lower stem. Then, peel back the outermost leaves and discard.

2. Turn the artichoke over to expose the heart and choke. You'll notice a network of layered leaves. The purplish/brown ones (color depends on size and species of your artichoke) need to be removed; they are not edible.

3. Using your thumb, pull down on the centermost leaves like so, and pop them out using your finger  use a spoon to help if you need to):

4.  Next, remove the choke. The choke is this little disk shape hairy section that sits above the stem and under those innermost leaves you just removed. It's usually colored a bright green/puce color; you'll notice it by its hairy texture. Use a good spoon to scrape out that choke, leaving a nice smooth heart of the artichoke like so:

5. Lemon bath.  Immediately after prepping each artichoke half, place them in a large bowl filled with cold water and the juice and halves of a couple of lemons. The lemons will help the artichokes not oxidize (brown) too quickly, and gives a nice subtle lemon "marinade" to them as well.

6. Read to use.  At this point, in the water bath your chokes are now ready to be used in whatever fashion you like. You can fry them, bake them, stuff them, roast them, grill them -- however you wish to prepare them. Following now, is my recipe for Artichoke Oreganata.

Artichoke Oreganata
4-6 baby artichokes halved, and prepped for stuffing (see above)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs*
3 cloves garlic, minced  (or to taste, we like it very garlicky in our house)
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves, finely chopped (can also use 1/2 tsp dried oregano)
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (can also use 1/4 tsp dried)
2 heaping tablespoons of finely grated parmesan cheese
fresh lemon wedges or juice for serving

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the bread crumbs, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil enough to moisten the crumbs, not make them soggy or dripping with oil. Add the lemon zest, herbs, and cheese and mix to combine. This is your stuffing and can be done about an hour in advance if you wish.

When you are ready to stuff the artichokes, take them out of the lemon water and lightly pat dry. Drizzle the bottom of the baking dish you are using with a little olive oil and place the artichokes all open-faced side down; drizzle their backsides with a little oil and season with some salt and pepper to taste -- remember, we must season every part of the dish, not count on the stuffing to do all the flavor work for us! Turn each artichoke over and season with oil, salt and pepper again. Use a light hand with the salt especially -- remember we have it and salty parmesan cheese in the stuffing so a little will go along way but still make the difference!

Take each artichoke and stuff it with a heaping teaspoon's worth of the stuffing. Using a dinner teaspoon as opposed to a measuring spoon works perfectly. Pack the spoon generously with the stuffing, then gently smoosh it into the cave of the artichoke in one move; the crumbs will fall off a little bit but if you're too timid, the whole thing will fall apart. Be confident in your stuffing!

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. We're covering it the first half of cooking because the artichokes need time to cook; you want them nice and tender to bite into, and the bread crumbs will cook far faster than the body of the artichoke.

To serve, simply lay out on a platter and squeeze some fresh lemon juice right on top. Serve immediately.

*To make fresh bread crumbs, simple take a slice of white sandwich or day-old crusty French or Italian bread and process in the food processor until larger crumbs are achieved. You can store them in an airtight bag or container for up to a week. Conversely, most stores offer fresh bread crumbs for purchase as well.