Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vegetarian Lasagna

I made this the first time a few years ago when trying to decrease the amount of meat we ate. We now don't make lasagna any other way, and both agree that it's better than the meaty version both our mothers make. I made this last night along with a fresh salad and homemade garlic bread.

Vegetarian Lasagna
1 lb firm tofu
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
2 tsp each dried basil, oregano and thyme
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
32 oz chunky tomato sauce
14 oz thick & zesty tomato sauce
6 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 large packages frozen chopped spinach
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
mozzarella cheese - shredded and sliced

Press tofu under heavy books for 15 minutes to remove excess moisture. In a food processor combine tofu, parmesan, eggs, spices, salt and pepper. Pulse until well combined. Mixture should resemble ricotta cheese in texture. Combine tomato sauces, season to taste.

In a 13x9" pan, add about 1 cup of sauce to bottom of pan. Layer 3 noodles. Add half the tofu mixture. Top with half the spinach, half the mushrooms, then a third of the sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella. Repeat the layers, ending with noodles, sauce and then layer the sliced mozzarella on top. Sprinkle top with italian herb mixture.

Preheat oven to 375F. Bake lasagna for 35-40 minutes until bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wine Pairing: We had this with Poggi Valpolicella Ripasso 2002

Monday, March 17, 2008

Irish Lamb Stew

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Each year for St. Paddy's Day I try making a traditional Irish* dish. This year I decided that we'd be having lamb stew. We had some wonderful versions of this when we were in Ireland in 2006 and we both missed it. So I purchased a boned leg of lamb from our butcher and off I went. Had to do some at-home butchering myself - there was about 1/4" of fat coating the leg that needed to be removed. There are ways to lean down the recipe (like not frying the lamb in the bacon fat) but, hey, it's a holiday. Enjoy!

* Note: this does NOT include corned beef, which is pretty much an American invention....don't get me wrong, I love corned beef. But facts are facts - the Irish used mutton (LAMB) as their primary meat source - beef and salt were far too expensive for the average Irish household. It wasn't until the 19th century when Americans of Irish descent started making the dish popular - but even then not for holidays as it was considered too "poor" a dish to celebrate with.

Irish Lamb Stew
1 lb thick-cut bacon
3 1/2 lbs lamb meat (leg or shoulder) cut into 1" cubes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
2 large onions, diced
2 cups beef stock
1 tsp sugar
2 cups baby carrots
2 potatoes, scrubed and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine

Fry the bacon in a large skillet, set aside on a paper towel to drain the grease; crumble. Toss lamb cubes in the flour, salt and pepper until well coated. Fry meat in bacon fat until browned.

Add all ingredients to crock pot. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Separate meat and veggies from broth. Pour broth into fat separator. Add decanted broth to skillet and warm. Mix 1/4 cup cold water with 2 tbsp corn starch. Add to broth in skillet, bring to a boil and simmer until thickened. Season according to taste. Mix broth back with stew, stirring well. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: we had this with a wine my sister brought back from South Africa: Blaauwklippen Estates 2005 Barouche Blend

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Goat Cheese

Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Goat Cheese
1 jar pine nuts
1 bag spinach, rinsed well (I used bulk spinach but it's about the amount of 1 pre-rinsed bag you find at the store)
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add in pine nuts and toast, stirring constantly. When pine nuts are fragarant and lightly browned, add in spinach. Stirring constantly, sautee spinach. Remove from heat when spinach starts to wilt. Continue to stir until spinach is lightly wilted.

Chicken Provencal w/ Sauteed Spniach and Pine Nuts

Wednesday nights are my serious cooking nights. Most other nights of the week are difficult with our schedule. Monday I have agility with The Dog. Tuesday nights The Spouse has indoor soccer. Thursday is a question-mark day. Friday is hard to say whether either of us wants to cook or not. And the weekends are usually filled with family events, soccer, etc.

Wednesday, however, The Dog has daycare, so he's not pesty in the kitchen, so we always try to make an effort to do a nice dinner.

Tonight I had taken out some chicken breasts but had no idea what to do with them. I searched online but couldn't find anything to inspire me. I called The Spouse and asked what he was in the mood for and got the Shrug over the phone. When pressed, he said "Something Mediterranean." Gee, that's specific, since "Mediterranean" can span anything from Spain to Greece to North Africa. Added to that, I REALLY did not want to have to run to the store to pick up one or two ingredients to make some recipe.

The resulting dinner was strictly from our pantry. And, best of all, could be adjusted to be suitable for grilling during the summer with a light salad.

Serve with Sauteed Spinach with Pine Nuts and Goat Cheese.

Chicken Provencal
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup buttermilk (I mixed 1 cup skim milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice)
~1 cup whole wheat flour
~1/4 cup wheat germ
herbes de provence
sea salt
ground pepper
1 tbsp butter, divided
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup lemon juice

Mix together the wheat flour, wheat germ, herbes, salt and pepper and spread on a plate. Mix the wine, broth and lemon juice.

Pound chicken breasts flat with meat mallet. Dip in buttermilk, then dredge thru flour mixture. Set aside.

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add in 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil until butter is melted. Sautee 2 of the chicken breasts for 5 minutes, turning halfway thru. Remove from pan and keep warm. Add in remaining 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Repeat with remaining 2 chicken breasts. Remove from heat and keep warm with the others.

Warm remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil in pan. Sautee shallots and garlic until lightly browned. Deglace pan with wine/broth mixture. Bring to a boil. Add chicken back to pan. Reduce heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from pan and plate. Plate spinach, sprinkle with goat cheese. Increase heat on sauce and reduce the sauce until slightly thickened (30 seconds). Pour sauce over chicken breasts. Serve immediately.

Wine pairing: I paired this with a Nobilo 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough valley in New Zealand)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Taco Night

Everyone loves tacos, right? Right.

I'm not sure where the idea to add red onion came from. I think it was The Spouse's, actually, but I don't remember why or what inspired it. Quite possibly we may have had half a large red onion in the fridge that needed to be used up. But it actually gives them a nice flavor. Nothing fancy, super tasty, and super easy.

Ground Turkey Tacos
1 medium red onion, finely diced
1 lb extra-lean ground turkey breast
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 pkg taco seasoning, 1 regular, 1 hot
1 cup water

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray pan with cooking oil. Add in onion and sautee until translucent. Add in ground turkey, breaking it apart into bits with your spoon. Cook until turkey is browned. Add in black beans, stir. Add seasoning and water, mix well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced.

Serve immediately with warmed tortillas, cheese, salsa and other garnishes as desired.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Crab and Pea Risotto

The Spouse and I decided that one night this weekend we'd have a nice dinner together. We'd thought of just doing crab legs but opted instead to make risotto out of them. The peas were an "I'm SICK of Winter" addition, but added nice texture to the overall dish.

Crab and Pea Risotto
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
crab meat from 4 king crab legs (about 8 oz)
1/2 cup frozen peas
6 shitakee mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Heat large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat thru. Add in onion and garlic, sautee until onion is lightly browned. Add in rice and sautee until translucent, stirring frequently. Add in wine, stirring constantly until absorbed.

Add in chicken broth, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and never letting mixture get completely dry, until broth is absorbed and rice is al dente. When adding in the last 1/2 cup, add in the crab, peas and mushrooms. When broth is almost completely absorbed and the crab is heated through, stir in parmesan cheese. Remove from heat, stirring constantly until cheese is fully incorporated into the risotto. Serve immediately.

Wine Pairing: We had this dinner with a bottle of Ayler Kupp 2003 Riesling Auslese.

Five-Spice Almond Cookies

I was scared these cookies wouldn't turn out. I only had half the butter required, so I subbed in olive oil (no canola oil. eep), left out half a cup of flour, and added in just a dash of milk when it seemed the dough was too crumbly..... kinda scary for what should have been a basic sugar cookie recipe.

But they're absolutely fantastic. More appropriate companions to a hot cup of tea than milk.

Five-Spice Almond Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup oil
1 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 handful roasted almonds, processed until crumbs

Combine dry ingredients and sift together. Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. Add vanilla. Add dry ingredients and process until well combined. Freeze dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375. Slice dough into 1/4" sections and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes or until done. Cool completely on wire rack.

Aloo Gobi

In early December The Spouse spent 2 weeks in Pune, India. He wasn't a huge fan of Indian food, so after he got back he put a hiatus on all things curry.

Thursday past he turned to me and said "Know what would be great for dinner tomorrow? Aloo Gobi." After almost a three month break, I was more than happy to oblige. We were unfortunately out of garam masala, so I was planning on making my own, but The Spouse apparently knew this and picked up another bottle from The Spice House.

Aloo Gobi
1 large onion, chopped
2 1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp ginger powder
1 28oz. can + 1 14oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp tumeric
2-3 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1 large cauliflower, cut into pieces
4 medium russet potatoes
1 14oz. can chickpeas
2 tbsp garam masala
5 tbsp oil
1-2 cups water
salt to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the cumin, garlic, ginger and onion. Sautee for 3 minutes or until onion is golden brown. Add the tomato, tumeric and chili powder. Sautee for another 5 minutes. Add in cauliflower, chickpeas and potato and sautee for 7-8 minutes. Add 1 cup water, cover, and let simmer for 6-10 minutes. Add in the garam masala, stir well, and continue to let simmer until the potato is cooked thru, adding water as necessary so the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.