Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce

roasted red pepper fettuccini

Joseph and I love to have the ingredients around for this pasta from Ellie Krieger because it’s fast, easy, relatively healthy, and the ingredients keep for a little while so you don’t need to make it right away.  In fact, we got the ingredients before our trip to Europe a few weeks ago and didn’t make it until last night.  I guess if you have to buy parsley, you might need to make it a little sooner.  That’s the beauty of growing your own herbs!  No more finding small packages of overpriced herbs that have slipped and been forgotten under all your other produce in the fridge and spoiled.

Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce
Adapted from Ellie Krieger

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 cup crumbled feta cheese or a 6-ounce block
1 pound whole-wheat fettuccine
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Add roasted peppers and saute until heated through. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Place the roasted red pepper mixture in a food processor with the stock and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta. Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds.
  3. Cook the  pasta. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
  4. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding the pasta water bit by bit if extra moisture is needed.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among pasta bowls and sprinkle with parsley and the remaining feta cheese.
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Chicken in Escabeche of Caramelized Onions, Carrots, and Jalapeños

My main contribution for this dish was eating it.  Yes, that’s right, Joseph did all the work and I came along, snapped some photos, ate it up, and now I’m writing it up here like I have some ownership of it.  That’s what marriage is for, right?

The recipe comes from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday.  We fell in love with Rick on Season One of Top Chef Masters. My love wavered briefly when Joseph, who was reading The United States of Arugula, told me that that Bayless had received lots of criticism for selling out to Burger King by appearing in a commercial endorsing the low-calorie Santa Fe Fire Grilled Chicken Baguette Sandwich.  I was back to being a fan when Jessica and Adam, my sister and brother-in-law, went to one of his Chicago restaurants and Jessica got an awesome photo of Adam with Rick.  Well, It’s a picture of Adam and Rick is in the background, but it’s a really nice photo and they said the food was amazing.  And I believe it because I’ve loved every recipe of his that we’ve made. I’ll have to tell you about his chilaquiles recipe some time….

carrots onion garlic

My favorite part of the chicken in escabeche were the big chunks of garlic that are sweetened from the simmering and get a kick from the jalapeños.  The carrots and onions are also nicely transformed by the sauce and the chicken was juicy and perfectly seasoned.  Serve over some rice and you’ve got a tangy, deeply satisfying meal.  Be forewarned that leftovers are delicious (and surprisingly moist because of all the broth you’ll put in with it) but pack more of a wallop since the jalapenos have had more time to infuse the food.  According to Rick, it can be served cold or hot, but so far we’ve only had it hot.

We served it with a crisp, bright Spanish Albariño from Burgans Winery.


chicken and albarino

Chicken in Tangy Escabeche of Caramelized Onions, Carrots, and Jalapeños
Adapted from Rick Bayless

Serves 4

1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt
4 (2 lbs total) chicken breast halves, bones and skin intact
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 large leftover carrots, sliced 1/4 inch on a diagonal
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 to 4 canned pickled jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth

  1. Combine pepper, allspice, oregano, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Sprinkle half of the mixture over the chicken reserving the rest for step #4.
  2. Heat the oil in a large (at least 12 inch) skillet over medium heat.  Place the chicken, skin side down, and cook, turning once, until browned (3-4 minutes on each side).  Remove from heat and place the chicken on a plate, leaving as much oil as possible in the pan.  Don’t worry, you’ll finish cooking it in step #4.
  3. Add the onions and carrots to the skillet and cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is browned (about 7  minutes). Add the garlic and stir for another minute. Add the remaining seasoning mixture, the vinegar, jalapenos, and broth. Place the chicken  into the mixture skin side up, nestling it into the sauce and veggies. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through (about 15 minutes).
  4. Season with additional salt if necessary and serve the chicken with a generous portion of the veggies and broth over rice.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

banana chocolate chip muffins

My husband knows me pretty well. The other day I was going to bake a carrot cake for a coworker’s birthday and I also wanted to bake something for a picnic and Shakespeare in the park the next night. At first Joseph thought this was a great idea and then he got this look in his eye — one could call it panic — and insisted I should only make the cake. I guess you can say that my nearest and dearest all know how much I love to bake, but also what a ridiculous mess I become when I get stressed in the kitchen. That night we went to the gym, made dinner, and went to the grocery before I could get started, not to mention the fact that it was HOT and we have no AC in the kitchen. So I decided to nix the Cooks Illustrated brownies I’d been thinking about making and just make some simple banana muffins with chocolate chips for the picnic in addition to the cake. Joseph still looked concerned, but I assured him that I could practically make these muffins blindfolded as long as I had some super ripe bananas (which we did).

I’ve tried many, many banana bread recipes and this is my favorite so far. I still need to try the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but it looks so complex and part of what I love about this recipe is how quick and easy it is. The nuts are optional, but I think it really adds to the depth of flavor as well as the texture. I like to break the pieces up fairly small so that there’s just enough subtle crunch to keep things interesting. Since these were going to be dessert-like, I also added chocolate chips. I would normally use smaller chips, but I had the Ghirardelli bittersweet chips on hand which are kind of on the big side. C’est la vie, I didn’t think anyone was going to complain about big chunks of chocolate in their muffins. Lo and behold, they were a hit and we came home empty-handed which is a very good thing because after that carrot cake, the last thing I needed was muffins in the house!

Banana Muffins
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Sigh. I feel that I should add that you can also add raisins, but you already know how I feel about raisins and if you ask me, you’d be ruining the muffins.

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
3 large ripe bananas (about 3 cups mashed)*
2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)**
1/2 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or use paper liners.
  2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs, and mashed bananas until well blended in large bowl. You can do this in a mixer, but save yourself the mess and just do it by hand.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold into the wet ingredients being careful not to overmix. Add the vanilla and chocolate chips and nuts if using.
  4. Spoon into prepared tin and bake 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a rack.

* We actually had a big bunch of these little tiny bananas we got at Whole Foods (Joseph was hoping they were the same as some bananas he used to get back in the Philippines, but no) and I had no idea if it would be enough. It ended up only being 2 cups, but everything worked out just fine. Just make sure that the banana is really, really ripe (i.e. black). It will yield much better flavor, not to mention it will be easier to mash.

** I never bother measuring the chocolate chips and just add until it looks like the right ratio. It is quite likely that it is usually more than half a cup 🙂


the carrots make it healthy, thank you very much

frosted carrot cake

Everyone always seem to think of carrot cake as being healthy.  It’s the nice little illusion those carrots give.  Veggies in your dessert!  Can you even call it a dessert?  No, better off calling it a side!  If only.  This is one of the more unhealthy cakes that I make (why hello, 2 cups of sugar and 4 eggs and we haven’t even gotten to the frosting!).  I try to lighten it up by replacing some of the oil with apple sauce, but really, I think it’s in vain.  Oh well.  It does still have carrots in it so, think of all the beta carotene you’re getting. Huzzah!

carrot cake

I haven’t made this cake in a few years, partially because the last time I made it, I made such a mess.  It took forever to grate all the carrots and I somehow managed to get bits of carrot all over the kitchen.  This time I was so excited to get out the food processor.  Let the machine do it!!  I was less excited when I thought of all the little pieces I’d have to wash (I love my food processor, but I hate washing it!), but decided it was still worth it.  I loved it.  Shove the carrot down the shoot and out come perfect grated carrots on the other end!  Marvelous.  On to the fun stuff.

cream cheese frosting

So, I know many people don’t think that it doesn’t really qualify as a carrot cake unless you put raisins in it.  I personally happen to hate raisins in most things (cinnamon raisin bagels and oatmeal cookies being the main exceptions, and even then, I’m not a huge fan) so I never put raisins in my carrot cake.  The coworker who I made this cake for is even more opposed to raisins in carrot cake than I am, so luckily I had no dilemma there.

Despite not exactly being the veggie side dish you wish it were, it’s a pretty delicious, moist cake and there’s only one person in the world that I know that doesn’t love cream cheese frosting (in fact, she hates it, but that’s just further proof that my sister is just wrong ;)).  The cake was devoured at work, but I did manage to save a small piece for Joseph who had helped me maintain my sanity the night before by measuring ingredients and helping with dishes.

carrot cake slice

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Tammy Elliot on Allrecipes.com

If you are in the Pro Raisins Camp, add a cup of raisins.  Either camp can also choose to add a cup of pecans if desired. Add them at the end when you add the carrots.

I made it in a 9×13 pan to make it nice and easy, not to mention more portable and easier to cut into many smaller pieces for lots of people.  If you want to make a layer cake, just use a conversion chart.

Cake
4 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 t vanilla
2 cups flour
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t cinnamon*
1/2 t nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots (4-5 carrots)

Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 t vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 9×13 inch pan.
  2. Beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, white and brown sugar, and vanilla in large bowl.
  3. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg in a medium bowl.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture making sure to not overmix.  Add the carrots and pour into the prepared pan.
  5. Cook for 40-50 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.**
  6. To make the frosting – In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese, butter, confectioners sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  I tried to do this by hand (always trying to reduce dishes to wash!) but gave up and grabbed my hand blender which made it so much easier. Spread over completely cooled cake.

* I’m a big fan of baking spices and always add a bit extra cinnamon whatever the recipe
** Always check early!  My oven runs hot and was done after 36 minutes.  Dried out cakes make me so sad!


Travel highlights

People who know me well have asked what our favorite food finds were on our trip to Budapest, Prague, and Vilnius.  Some people go to museums, we go to restaurants.  I think Joseph and I agree that the best thing we had on the entire trip was probably the Parmentier de lapin a la moutarde (rabbit with mustard sauce) he ordered at Le Florimond in Paris during our layover to Budapest. We were pretty excited when we asked for sparking wine and the waiter responded with gusto, “Only  Champagne!”  Yes, please!  And of course the chocolate croissant that I got in Paris was also pretty fantastic in way that only pure butter and chocolate can be.

rabbit stew

Other highlights (from our main destinations!) included chicken paprika in Budapest; some amazing red cabbage (made with beets), a hunk of pork (I think it was the whole leg…) that Joseph ordered and (my personal favorite!) beef Goulash served in a bread bowl in Prague; and chilled beet soup with a shocking pink color and an amazing chocolate mousse in Lithuania.

duck and red cabbage (Prague) pork leg (Prague) beet soup chocolate mousse

goulash

The beer in all the cities was amazing, and always cheaper than water.  One of my favorite finds was a beer cellar, Bambalyne, in Old Town Vilnius. We bought 3 different varieties and enjoyed them in a nearby park with some yummy, garlicky cheese.

beer cellar

beer in the park


Macaron Macaroon

Walking through the streets of Paris  is so like a kid in a candy store.  I was drooling outside of every shop we walked past.  I was especially excited by this beautiful window display with all these beautiful, colorful little confections.  I only vaguely knew that they were called macarons and I was confused because they are so different from the Italian macaroons.  In my pastry course at L’ Academie de Cuisine four years ago, we made a pastry identical to what you see below (ok, not as pretty and we only made one flavor), but they were smaller and our instructor called them japonaise so I was feeling pretty confused.  After some time searching, I learned from M. Brown on www.cheftalk.com that japonaise (which is not even in wikipedia! gasp!) are meringue layers made with ground toasted almonds, which are apparently great with ganache and butter cream.  That’s exactly what we made: two layers of almond meringue with a slathering of chocolate ganache in between.  They were delicious. But then again, anything with ganache is delicious.  So I’m still confused about the name thing and I don’t even know exactly how to say macaron.  But it appears that a macaron and a japonaise are the same thing.  And they are certainly very, very different from the Italian macaroons which are made from coconut.

French Macarons

The problem was that I was apparently not familiar enough with macarons to put them at the top of my list for the food we were going to eat in our 4 hours in Paris.  We ate plenty of other great things, but not a single macaron.  It wasn’t until our layover during our return flight from Budapest to Boston that we got one.  We had a long layover and we were pacing the Charles de Gaulle looking for a good French lunch, trying to decide if we wanted to spend $25 a person for a good but not great 3 course lunch, or an overpriced sandwich.  I decided that all I really cared about was that I had to get a macaron. We went to the Paul Bakery stand and each got a sandwich, Joseph ordered a chocolate bread type thing and I ordered a magnificent giant macaron.  Once we got on the plane though, we kept getting food and weren’t that hungry and the macaron sat in my bag.

Once we got to Boston and had dinner, I was so exhausted that I didn’t have any interest in eating the macaron (blasphemy, I know!) so it wasn’t until the next night that we pulled it out.  I forgot to mention that Joseph had shared his chocolaty bread thing with me on the plane and so I sadly now had to share the macaron with him.  I ate half and then had to hand the rest of to him which required herculean strength.  I think it’s one of the best sweets I’ve ever eaten.  It was so light and airy but with just a hint of crunch and the inside – oh the inside!!! It reminded me of eating brownie batter when I was a kid.  It was absolutely amazing and seriously, I think it was probably one of the top 10 desserts that I’ve ever had (and I have had a LOT of desserts).

Formagio macarons

This new found love meant that we had to find it in Boston.  On Saturday we used the macaron search as an excuse to go to Formagio Kitchen in Cambridge to get their delicious barbecue and sample their cheeses.  They did indeed have macarons as friends at Chow Hound had said, but they were small and $2.50 a pop.  We bought one of each flavor (Chocolate, Pistachio, and Raspberry) and cut them in half (damn grad school budget!) and shared them.  They were tasty and certainly satisfied my sweet tooth, but they paled in comparison to the one we got in France (albeit the airport).  The search must go on!!  Luckily, according to Salon.com and the Wall Street Journal, macarons are the new cupcake.  Bring it on!

And of course I’ll also try making them if the humidity ever recedes.


4 hours in Paris

A no/low carb diet sounds about as appealing to me as giving up air.  When I was a kid, I once asked for another piece of bread with dinner and my mom gave me a choice: another piece of bread OR dessert.  I LOVE dessert.  From the very bottom of my heart, I love baked goods, I love ice cream, I love brown sugar right out of the bag.  Don’t even start me on chocolate.  And yet, I chose the bread that night.

When Joseph and I began our plans for our trip to Eastern Europe for Peter and Agne’s wedding in Lithuania, we we were faced with a choice of a reasonable layover or an 11 hour layover in Paris.  We chose the 11 hour layover, despite the fact that we knew we would be exhausted after the overnight flight (I hardly slept at all!), but how can you give up a chance to see Paris?  Our time was limited and I told Joseph that all I really cared about for our quick stint in Paris was eating some cheese, bread, a chocolate croissant, and having some good wine.  Oh, and it would be pretty cool if we saw the Eiffel Tower.

Pain au Chocolat

When we got off the train from the airport, we snapped a couple of shots of the Notre Dame, and then bagan the search for a bakery.  We stumbled across La Boulangerie de Papa where I got a pain au chocolat.  It was not even in the same realm with the croissants that I had had before.  It left my hands slippery with butter.  The chocolate was made my heart skip a beat.  And the flakiness!  It was heaven.

I wanted to order at least one of everything in the bakery, but my husband insisted we move on.  Sigh.  Not without at least a shot of the beautiful baguettes.

French bagguettes

How can anyone willingly give up bread??