Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spinach Meatballs

In the past, we've made meatballs by frying them in a pan which was messy and somewhat tedious - since we need to be making some sort of marinara at the same time. I then remembered seeing an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown bakes the balls of meat instead of frying them. Why hadn't we tried this before? And you can make more meatballs at the same time as well, and more is always better!

We mixed a little over a pound of ground turkey with 1.5 cups of thawed and well drained spinach. I added about 1/4 c. parmesan, 1/2 tbsp Worchestershire, some dried oregano, basil, S&P and some Penzey's Cajun Seasoning. I mixed that together and added roughly 1/3 c of breadcrumbs until the mixture was no longer gooey. I did not add an egg to this, but in retrospect, that would've bound everything together a bit better.

After forming 1.5inch balls, I placed them on a greased pan and stuck them at 400F for 20 minutes, turned them and cooked for 5 minutes more. After plunking them into the marinara for a few minutes more, we served them up over some whole wheat angel hair pasta.

And what to do with leftovers...meatball sandwiches of course!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chicken with Olives & Artichokes

A little while ago I purchased an obscene amount of chicken thighs and threw them in the freezer knowing they would work their way into our bellies soon enough. I was having a craving for salty, briny olives and thought how wonderful they would be with those chicken thighs. As with most of our recipes we kinda just invented the recipe as we were doing it, which is the fun of it!

After cutting off excess fat/skin from the thighs, we rinsed and patted them dry and seasoned them just with salt & pepper and a bit of smoked paprika. In our dutch oven, we seared them in batches (don’t want to crowd them!) in some olive oil. After wiping out the excess oil (but keeping some of the brown bits of goodness), we added some fresh olive oil and sauteed one frenched onion and 5 chopped garlic cloves. After cooking for 5 minutes, we added roughly 8oz of sliced mushrooms, and let those cook down.

Now come the stars of the show in my opinion!! About 40 olives (half Kalamata and half giant green ones) are halved and thrown in with ¼ cup of capers, a few sprigs of thyme and a small bunch of oregano.

We then deglazed the pan with about 2 cups of chardonnay, and cooked that for about 5 minutes more. We returned the chicken to the pan with 5 cups of chicken stock. We topped off with 2 16 oz cans of drained quartered artichokes, brought it up to a low boil and threw it into a 350 degree oven for an hour.

We served this delightful Mediterranean dish over some Pecan and garlic couscous, and toasted with a glass of Chardonnay as well! Bon apetit!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Last year, we made a traditional Irish Lamb Stew for St. Patrick's Day - one of our favorite holidays of the year. This year, we went traditional again - but in a different direction... the traditional Irish-American St. Patrick's Day meal: Corned beef and cabbage (and turnips and carrots and celery and onions...)

We trimmed much of the fat off of a 4lb flat-cut corned beef and then added it to our dutch oven along with alot of water, a 16oz Guinness (yum!), a chopped-up onion, about 5 crushed cloves of garlic, three BIG bay leaves, a handful of whole tellicherry peppercorns, and some kosher salt. After finally coming to a boil, we covered it tight and set it to simmer... and forgot about it for 3.5 hours.

3.5 hours later, we warmed up the oven to ~200 degrees and removed our now-red and tender corned beef from the liquid. We wrapped it in alumninum foil and let it rest in the warm oven in order to boil up our veggies in the corned beef's flavorful broth.

After bringing the broth to a nice boil, we added a turnip, about a dozen carrots, and a bunch of celery ribs - all cleaned, peeled, and chopped to around the same size. Back to a boil and give those guys a head-start, then we finally added a head of cabbage that had been cut into 8 wedges.

20 minutes later and we were eating. The corned beef was SO tender it is hard to describe... it was almost like jelly - although that not the most flattering description, trust us it was good. Along with some dijon mustard, the flavor was delicious. And the veggies had absorbed the wonderful broth left behind by the corned beef. We enjoyed this delicious meal with the last of many, many Guinness pints from the weekend and are looking forward to the leftovers - and sandwiches!

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Shrimp Alfredo Pizza

We have pretty much perfected our homemade whole wheat pizza dough - one packet of yeast in 1 cup of very warm (110-degree) water and a drop of honey allowed to "wake up" for about 15 minutes, then into a bowl with 3 cups whole wheat flour, lots of garlic powder, salt, and some basil and oregano, combined and kneaded until doughy and then allowed to rise near the warm oven (covered) for an hour. This recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas, and it freezes well too.

The champion of this particular pizza creation is the bag of frozen shrimp we always have on hand. Whether in fajitas, pasta, or grilled cajun-style over a salad, these frozen wonders are great for easy and quick weeknight cooking.

As usual, we pre-cooked our dough on our stone in a very hot 500-degree oven for 4 minutes. In the meantime, we cooked up the shrimp 2/3 of the way in some olive oil and seasoned them with some garlic powder, oregano, and basil. We removed the dough and topped it with some store-bought alfredo sauce, some big slices of tomato, fresh basil leaves, the shrimpies and topped it with some shredded mozzarella and fresh-grated parmesan. We popped that back in the oven for 7 more minutes, and then we had ourselves a nice creamy shrimp pizza with a divinely thin crispy crust!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Good Shepherd

Another casserole-type dish?!? Two in a row - you ask? You bet. And you’ll see why in a sec! It’s been cold here in Boston – demonically so, and therefore we wanted comfort food that'll keep your insides warm. We decided on a kicked up version of shepherd's pie that would be topped off by mashed sweet potatoes and sharp cheddar cheese.

We browned up some “meatloaf mix” in some olive oil. This is just ground veal, pork and beef to give a nice depth to our pie. Once browned, we removed from the pan and started sautéing diced carrots and onions. After 10 minutes we added a couple cloves of chopped garlic and some chopped mushrooms. The spicing for this dish consisted of salt, thyme and lots of freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper.

At this point we boiled up 2 diced sweet potatoes, and once tender, we mashed them with S&P, 1.5 TBS Promise, and ¼ cup milk. Returning to the veggies: we deglazed with ¼ cup red wine and 2 cups of beef stock. We returned the browned meat to the pan and added a cup each of frozen peas and chopped spinach.

After most of the liquid had cooked off, we turned off the heat and spread the mashed sweet potatoes over the top of the veggies and meat, topped that with a sharp cheddar and threw the cast iron pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

This pie was so delicious, it made great leftovers for days! As you can tell, we LOVE one pot dishes – so if anyone has some fantastic one pot suggestions, let us know!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Chicken Eggplant Casserole

I spied some nice shiny aubergines aka beautiful Italian eggplants at the store the other day, so I scooped them up immediately. The poor things sat in the fridge for a couple of days before I remembered them, but they were good to go when M and I came up with a crazy-off-the-cuff-I-hope-this-is-edible-recipe.

We browned some ground chicken with some olive oil, sage, basil and S&P. Once browned, we removed from the pan and sautéed some onion, garlic and diced green pepper for about 10 minutes and then we added the star – half moon slices of our eggplants. We let that go another 5 minutes and added some sliced baby bella mushrooms to the pan. After deglazing with about a cup of chardonnay, we added a 32 oz can of diced tomatoes, some cream and we returned the chicken to the pan.

After reducing the sauce for about 15 minutes, we topped it with some mozzarella cheese and some bread crumbs and set it under the broiler for about 8 minutes. Came out with a great crust on top and tasting delicious! Real comfort food... this tasted like Eggplant Parmesean, but without all the lenghty process that goes into making Egg Parm... made excellent leftovers, too. This recipe is a keeper!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Roasted Fennel & Sweet Potato

I’ve been hunting for months now for fennel bulbs, but the local supermarket hasn’t been carrying them. Well they used to, but under the name anise which got me all confused!!! But now that I’m in the know, they were without. Finally I decided to hit the supermarket early on a Sunday morning and lo and behold – fennel! I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, but I HAD to buy it. That night M wanted to grill a steak and make some herb butter (see below), so I thought some roasted veggies would work nicely.

I cut the bulb into eighths, but I would recommend doing them slightly thinner as they’ll take less time to cook and will be on the same schedule as the sweet potatoes which were cut into quarter inch half moons. Everything was tossed with some EVOO, balsamic vinegar and S&P. Into a 380 degree oven for 45 minutes. The fennel was a bit too crunchy for M, but I liked it anyway and threw some in my weekday lunch salads as well!

Along with those roasted veggies, we applied a dry rub - kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper - to a big steak and then grilled it up... We thought we'd try something easy but nice to have on top, so earlier in the day we took out a 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (the real stuff, of course) and let it soften. When good and soft, we added LOTS of herbs - both fresh chopped (oregano, parsley) and dried (more oregano, basil) - and combined with a fork. Then we added the mushy herbed butter to plastic wrap and fold over lengthwise... and then roll along the counter holding the two open ends to form a tight butter roll!

Pop this back in the fridge and it rehardens - ready to be mined for little slices of herb butter for use on the steak and whatever else you can think of!