Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thanksgiving in August

Its a cool, rainy day here in New York. Despite the fact that it is August, autumn decided it wanted to show us Yankees what is waiting in the wings for us come September.

And speaking of weather, I am home sick today under it.

I still needed to make something for dinner and was not in the mood for anything strenuous despite craving comfort food. So, I took out my Crockpot and decided to make something that reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner (one of my favorite dinners each year). I have been taking cookbooks out of the library all summer and one I am currently reading is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes. The author, Beth Hensberger, adapted the gravy for this dish from a Marcus Samuelsson recipe, and that is why it also caught my eye. It also caught my eye because I am a huge fan of sweet and savory together.

Turkey Cutlets with Sweet Potatoes


For the gravy:
One package of turkey gravy mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons half and half
1/4 cup dried cranberries

For the meat and vegetables:
3 medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
4 ounces of French green beans (fresh), trimmed
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 pound turkey breast cutlets
salt and pepper to taste

1) In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the gravy mix, water, wine, and cranberry sauce, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and whisk until thickened and the cranberry sauce has melted. Stir in the half and half and dried cranberries. Set aside.
2) Spray the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the sweet potato slices in the bottom of the crock. Then add the green beans and the slices of garlic. Salt and pepper the turkey cutlets and then roll up each cutlet, placing them in a layer on top of the vegetables.
3) Pour the warm cranberry gravy over the cutlets and vegetables. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, until the turkey and the sweet potatoes are tender.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summertime...and the Livin' is Easy

Its not that I haven't been cooking this summer.

In fact, I have week's worth of back posts to add here between now and September!

Being on the lam of this blog was both good and bad. I am having an amazing summer and the days have been filled all the goodness that is summer. However, I am disappointed in myself for not sharing all the good summer eats with everyone.

I sense that fall is in the air as the sun goes down a little sooner and the vegetables in the garden have all peaked for the most part. The air was cooler here in New York this weekend, so I took advantage of that and decided to throw together a summertime roast of chicken and vegetables on this lazy Sunday.

This is definitely one of those Mark Bittman recipes where you can interchange the vegetables and herbs depending on what you have in your summer garden. I have so much oregano that I am definitely going to be drying a good deal of it once summer ends. Rosemary would also work nice with this dish, as would dill.

Greek Style Roasted Chicken

3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 pound of chicken thighs
1 onion, cut into thick slices
1 green pepper, cut into strips
handful of baby carrots
6 baby red bliss potatoes, scrubbed
1 clove of garlic, whole pieces peeled
1 lemon, sliced
fresh springs of oregano
salt and pepper to taste

- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Salt and pepper the chicken and vegetables
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl except the lemon wedges and mix
- Place ingredients on a shallow roasting pan and cover with lemon wedges
- Cook for 3o minutes - take pan out and discard any watery juices
- Cook for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender and the onions have started to caramelize
- You can take the whole roasted garlic cloves and spread it on bread to have with the dish

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Caribbean Cooking!

The best way to come back after a small hiatus is with a post about my amazing supper club! This month's theme was Caribbean cooking, so we gathered at my place and enjoyed some amazing dishes on the patio!

There were only three of us today - summertime is so busy for everyone and we aren't even meeting in August for that reason, but I admit tonight the intimacy of the small supper club was quite enjoyable.

For main dishes, we ate corn fritters, curried rice, bacon, and cabbage, a salad of hearts of palm, avocado, and mango, and jerk chicken with pasta in a cream sauce. For dessert, there was FLAN. And oh were the flans amazing! I give the cooks credit since flan is not an easy dish to make. These were so perfect, and I want leftovers for breakfast with my coffee! One was a coconut flan and the other was a cream cheese flan.

The recipe I am posting is for the salad. It was the quintessential summer salad and a last minute dish Jo made...and I am glad she did decide to make it! It was like summer in my mouth!

Although it is posted on Foodnetwork, this is a recipe from WALKERSWOOD CARIBBEAN KITCHEN! Walkerswood has great recipes and great sauces.



For the dressing:

1/2 lime or lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

1 (14 or 15-ounce) can palm hearts, drained and sliced crosswise

2 ripe mangoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 ripe avocados (or 1 large), peeled, stoned, and thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 Scotch bonnet or other hot chile pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped

1/2 lime or lemon (to be squeezed the avocado to prevent discolouring)


To make the dressing: Mix the first 4 ingredients and then drizzle olive oil in slowly while stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Assemble all the salad ingredients in a bowl and serve the dressing on the side.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Spaghetti Series - Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs (#5)

I love al fresco dining in the summer. I have a lovely patio that is just meant for it! Last weekend the weather was beautiful and sunny, and I had a quiet evening to myself to enjoy dinner outdoors as the sun set. My garden has started to take off, and I was able to use the oregano I am growing in my chicken meatball dish. I realized that I had not posted a classic spaghetti and meatball recipe on this blog yet, and I was quite overdue. Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Chicken Meatballs
Meatball Ingredients:
1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups Italian style breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, making sure everything is fully combined. Shape mixture into 12 meatballs. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat and cook meatballs until golden brown, 5 minutes. They will finish cooking in the sauce (recipe below).

Sauce Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 small onion, diced
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 28 ounce can of peeled plum tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine

Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and onions, sauteing until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Add the basil and stir for another minute, allowing it to flavor the base of the vegetables. Add in plum tomatoes, squishing them with your hand before putting them in the pot with their juices. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, and wine, and let simmer for 1 hour on low heat. Add the meatballs 45 minutes into the cooking time and serve with your favorite spaghetti and fresh cheese on top.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back to Blogging with Back of the Box Recipes - Supper Club!

I am BACK to blogging with this month's Supper Club Back of The Box Recipes theme! We gathered yesterday for this delightful spread of food. I had been ill for the past few weeks with a stomach issue that has finally ceased, and it was wonderful to be able to enjoy all the foods yesterday after having a week during the illness of barely being able to have liquids! I would say that the recipe I enjoyed eating the most, and they were all delicious, were the peanut butter and jelly muffins made by Marianne. The recipe is literally on the Gold Medal Flour bag, and I am going to the supermarket later to buy a bag even though I have plenty of flour. I must have that recipe!

There is not one dish I didn't love, and I would recommend all recipes. I made the Quick Dill Dip and the Salsa Macaroni and Cheese. Two websites that have a great collection are these:

The Meal:

Salsa Mac (Ragu), Bisquick Sausage Cheddar Balls, Impossible Green Chili Pie (Bisquick)
Tuna Noodle Casserole (Campbells), Corn Souffle (Jiffy)
Wild Rice with Cranberries (Craisins)
Ambrosia, Quick Dill Dip (Miracle Whip)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins (Gold Medal Flour)
Baker's Chocolate Brownies (Baker's Chocolate)
Strawberry Shortcakes (Bisquick)

Quick Dill Dip
1 cup Miracle Whip Light Dressing
1 16 ounce container Breakstone's fat-free sour cream
1 tablespoon dill weed
1 tablespoon dried minced onion flakes
1 tablespoon dried parsley

Directions: Mix all ingredients, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or, ideally, overnight.
Serve with vegetable crudite and crackers.

Salsa Macaroni and Cheese
1 jar Ragu Double Cheesy Cheddar Sauce
1 jar Tostito's hot salsa
1/2 cup plain tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Chili Powder (I used my Penzey's 9000)
1 pound cooked elbow pasta (I used mini wagon wheels and it was fun)

Prepare pasta as directed. Mix in all other ingredients when pasta is cooked and drained. Yep, its THAT simple.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Bolognese Blues

I have the Bolognese blues.

This weekend's Bolognese sauce battle has been in the works for months at my request, and I am home instead of being in Connecticut at a farm house with my beloved families (my two friends since grade school and their parents).

The head cold I had from 3 weeks ago manifested itself into my body, and I am on the mend from not having an appetite for a week now and only eating simple foods (hence lack of posts here on A Twist of Spaghetti). After getting scolded this morning by my doctor for not taking care of myself and being run-down, I sent my beautiful Bolognese sauce to battle without me.
I slept throughout the day and will sleep early tonight, drinking lots of water in between.

I did make some pasta to be topped with my sauce so I could post it here. I had a few bites, and I have to say this is a winner. I think I have a good shot at first place this despite my absence and hope that my family enjoys it. I miss them so very much tonight.

Bolognese sauce is a wonderfully rich "sugo" that takes time and attention to make right and perfect. You cannot rush the sugo, and the trick is to layer the sauce at each phase with lots of flavor. This is my recipe adapted from others - I am proud of how it has grown since I started making it over 8 years ago! It really is better the day after since it has time to sit with all the flavors and aromatics.

Amy's Winning Bolognese Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
2 slices of thick, center cut bacon
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
2 pounds of ground beef, pork, and veal mixture
1 cup dry red wine (I used Shiraz)
1 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 14 ounce cans of beef broth
1 1/2 cups canned tomato puree
3 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 splashes of low sodium soy sauce
splash of heavy cream or half and half
grated pecorino romano, for serving

1) Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon and saute until beginning to brown, about 6 minutes.
2) Add onion, celery, carrots, thyme, and sage, sauteing for 5 minutes.
3) Add ground meat mixture to brown, breaking up meat with back of fork, for about 10 minutes.
4) Add wine and bay leaves, simmering until liquid is slightly reduced, 10 minutes.
5) Add broth and tomato puree. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 hours, stirring constantly.
6) Once sauce has thickened, add the splashes of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and the nutmeg.
7) Blend sauce with a few pulses in the food processor for a good texture.
8) Splash in some cream before serving and top with grated pecorino romano. You can use whatever pasta you wish...I really like mine with rigatoni or rotelli.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti

Giulia Melucci, author of I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti (a memoir of good food and bad boyfriends), is not just an amazing writer and amazing cook, she is an amazing person.

If you have not read the book, I suggest you go on Amazon immediately or head to your local bookstore. Whether you are male or female, heartbreak is universal, so I recommend this book to anyone, especially a foodie!

Why is she an amazing person? I had emailed her last week and she responded within 24 hours with words that were kind, supportive, and truly funny! I am meeting her next week at a book signing and cooking demo and look forward to writing more about my interaction with her and posting some photos from the special event.

In the meantime, I am making her recipes! And wow, are they fantastic! This weekend I made an adapted version of a delicious pasta sauce called Lachlan's Rigatoni with Eggplant. He was a bad boyfriend but a good cook. Enjoy!

Lachlan's Rigatoni with Eggplant (adapted from Giulia Melucci's ex-boyfriend)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
pinch of hot red pepper flakes
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 large (28 ounce can) crushed tomatoes (I used Red Pack's Italian style)
1/4 cup red wine
1 tablespoon sugar (tomatoes, wine, and eggplant are acidic, do not omit this!)
1 pound rigatoni (I used rotelli primavera to be healthier), cooked al dente
freshly grated Romano cheese

1) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and red pepper and saute until onion is translucent.
2) Add the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt and cook for 20 minutes, allowing the eggplant to get a little brown.
3) Add crushed tomatoes, wine, sugar, and the remaining salt. Place lid half open on the pot and simmer for 1 hour.
4) Serve over hot, cooked pasta with grated cheese on top.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Would Have Licked the Wok!

A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman posted a recipe in the beloved Dining Out section of The New York Times for vegetable pad thai. It inspired me to make my own despite having a good Thai restaurant not too far from where I live.

I was going to try his recipe, but I wanted some kind of protein in the mix. I then started looking for recipes that included chicken and shrimp, and as I read more and more, they all varied greatly! There are no two pad thai recipes alike on the interwebs! Some called for tamarind paste, some for honey, some for fish sauce, others for oyster sauce. Some had egg on top, others did not. All had cilantro, and I hate cilantro, so that was not happening on my plate. I did not want rice noodles at all. I am now officially a Dreamfields fan and prefer that as my noodle choice, and linguine worked just fine!

I was getting discouraged and then decided to Thai in all the recipes together and create my own based on what I had and what my tastes were. I also wanted to make this a weeknight meal...some of the recipes were complicated. This took me 45 minutes start to finish. It would have taken a bit longer had I opted to add the egg, and I would go back and do that on a weekend! That being said, I had one bite and wanted to lick the wok, let alone the plate after I was done!

What is your favorite dish to cook in your wok?

Chef Aimee's Pad Thai

1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut satay sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
3 tablespoons wok oil (available in Asian aisle - has some great flavors)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup of zucchini, sliced julienne style
1/4 cup Chinese chives, diced (these are my FAVORITE kind of chives)
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut up into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 pound linguine noodles (Dreamfields is my choice), cooked and drained
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Chopped peanuts, for garnish

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, satay sauce, hot sauce, and oyster sauce until smooth.
2) Salt and pepper the chicken and then coat with ground ginger.
3) Heat a large wok with the wok oil and make sure oil is very hot. Once hot, add the garlic and let cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chicken and vegetables and stir fry until chicken is cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Add noodles and toss to coat.
4) Add satay/spice paste, brown sugar, vinegar, and lime juice and toss to distribute. Cook until heated through, another minute or so.
5) After plating, top with chopped peanuts. (You can also add mung bean sprouts and cilantro)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Soup's On!

I was under the weather during the week and decided to make some soup that was healthy but flavorful. Any Asian-style soup is one I have an affinity for. There is nothing like a good hot pot to warm the soul. This recipe caught my attention because it has one of my favorite beans: edamame! I am quite fortunate to live so close to an HMart (a wonderful Korean supermarket) and I bought some other items for some fun stir-fry this week, including Chinese brown rice cake and some firm tofu. I also got some oyster sauce since I saw a recipe for pad thai that Mark Bittman wrote about in The New York Times.

Asian Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Soup (courtesy of Weight Watchers)

2 cups chopped roasted chicken breast
1 (10-ounce) package frozen, shelled edamame
1 (32-ounce) can low sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 (3-ounce) package of chicken flavored ramen noodles
1 cup thinly sliced Chinese chives

1) Heat first three ingredients in Dutch oven for 3 minutes.
2) Add soup noodles and spice packet and cook according to directions.
3) Add chives and ladle into bowls. Eat with chopsticks and enjoy!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cooking Light with my Supper Club!

Tonight was another wonderful supper club gathering with the most amazing women who also happen to be amazing cooks. Our theme this month was Cooking Light recipes, and every single dish tasted wonderful. There was so much variety and each dish was decadent. Conversation was enjoyable, as always, and certain subjects came up that were especially pleasing (i.e. Anthony Bourdain)! Here is what we all cooked...most of the recipes are linked to the Cooking Light website.

Jo made Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Herbs. I popped them in my mouth like they were candy...so good! I love dill and there was plenty in the seasoning of the egg filling. It was the perfect spring appetizer plate.
Jo also made a wonderful Kofte with a yogurt harissa sauce. Being Armenian, I absolutely loved these and the sauce was a great accompaniment.
Jo made Green Beans with Orange and Hazelnuts, another spring dish that would be perfect along side any dish. The zest of the orange and rich hazelnut flavor were complex and added so much to the beans.
Alex made a Proven├žale Pepper-Chicken Salad that looks even better than the photo does on the Cooking Light website! And oh it tasted so good! The herbes de provence and sun dried tomatoes gave each bite-full such a pop of flavor, and the sweetness of the peppers was delicious.
Alex also made a Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew that was perfectly spiced; she even made her own Berbere spice mix! I look forward to making this as well...the spices were phenomenal.
Jo made a basmati saffron rice dish with some green onions to compliment the kofte. There is just something about the color that saffron creates that makes a dish even that more enjoyable to eat.
I made a fun dish called Dracula's Revenge that was a garlicky mix of pasta and sausage! I loved that the recipe called for roasted garlic mashed up into the creamy cheese sauce.
Marianne decided on a Fresh Coconut Cake that was so decadent, it was hard to believe it was light! The frosting was heavenly and had a slight meringue taste that made it over-the-top rich and creamy. I could have eaten her entire cake in one sitting.
Stephanie made a dessert I would be too scared to attempt and gave her lots of credit for: sour cream donut holes! They were absolutely wonderful and the maple glaze just made them all the more appealing since I love anything and everything with maple!
I also tackled a cake recipe and absolutely enjoyed both making it and eating it! Its a Nutty Graham Cake that had orange notes. I look forward to eating a slice tomorrow morning with a cup of coffee. I would definitely make it again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Alice's Chicken

My brother-in-law's cousin, Alice, is an amazing cook. Even she needs a break once in a while after a long day at work and looks to make something quick and easy. She served this once for my sister and brother-in-law, who served it to my other sister (twin), who then served it to me. The recipe goes back to Alice to gave it to my sister who gave it to my twin sister who gave it to me! Its from the back of the Lipton Onion Soup box! I had another packet left over this week after my last recipe and said, why not?

There has been so much going on lately professionally and personally, but this weekend is supper club and I look forward to diving into some more complicated dishes. On deck is a pasta dish with lots of garlic and a nutty graham cake (both from Cooking Light). I am shopping around for a new barbecue and look forward to menu planning once that nice little gas burning baby is on my patio, ready to roll for weeknight grilling!

In the meantime, its cold here again and hence some good comfort food! Many thanks to Alice for taking the time to look at the back of the box!

Alice's Chicken

1 cup of white or brown rice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 packet onion soup mix
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 pound of skinless, boneless chicken (white or dark meat)
pepper to taste
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs

1) Preheat over to 375 degrees.
2) Add rice, olive oil, soup mix, and water to a 9x13 glass baking dish and mix well.
3) Place chicken on top (pepper the chicken to taste) and then dollop the mushroom soup on each piece of chicken, spreading it out evenly.
4) Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then add breadcrumbs on top.
5) Place back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes, until chicken juices run clear, rice is fully cooked, and liquids are absorbed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Spaghetti Series - Bacon Cheeseburger Spaghetti (#4)

After a long work week, I am craving comfort food.

I wanted to make a spaghetti dish that was easy since I am exhausted, but one I could also indulge in! What could be better than bacon cheeseburger spaghetti? I browsed the internet and found many variations of this, and I pulled ideas from each one. Some really took it literally and added pickles and such, but I was rather skeptical about that element. I also did not want to feel guilty about eating fatty red meat or dealing with the calories of a homemade cheddar cheese sauce, so improvised with ingredients!

The result? A perfect plate of pasta!

Bacon Cheeseburger Spaghetti

1 pound of 92% lean ground beef
1 can of cream of cheddar soup
1 cup 1% milk
1 packet of onion soup mix
2/3 cup diced tomatoes in juices
3/4 pound cooked spaghetti
Bacon bits for topping

1) In a large nonstick skillet, brown meat over medium heat, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2) In a large saucepan, combine soup, soup mix, milk, and tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add in meat and stir well, simmering another 2 minutes.
3) Add pasta to the large saucepan and combine pasta and sauce well.
4) Serve immediately with bacon bits crumbled on top.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Love Christopher Kimball!

I only got The Cook's Country Cookbook as a gift little over a year ago and already many pages are stained from various sauces and liquids made for dishes from the book. I could watch the dvd's of season one over and over, and finally I am getting around to season two on dvd this weekend since its going to rain here in New York. I love America's Test Kitchen, but there is just something even better about Cook's Country!

And lets face it, who doesn't love Chris Kimball? He is a true farm boy from Vermont with the foodie snobbery of a top New York City food critic. And that bowtie - what a character! I would actually be quite nervous working for him and find he is always giving Jack too much of a hard time with tastes tests. Julia and Bridget are master chefs, though, and just plain hold their own when it comes to Kimball's doubts about a recipe! The cookbook is a favorite gift of mine, as are subscriptions to both Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated, all from dear friends.

I never eat fried chicken and wish I could, so how could I pass up Chris Kimball's oven fried chicken if he is telling me its crispy and I won't miss the deep fried flavor? No matter what, any foodie worth his salt will tell you that you have to use corn flakes for oven-fried chicken.

And he did.

I served mine with buttermilk mashed potatoes and asparagus roasted with onions and garlic. Enjoy!

Fiery Oven-Fried Chicken (courtesy of Cook's Country)

2 cups lowfat buttermilk
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon hot sauce
6 bone-in chicken thighs (skinless)
1 slice of hearty white sandwich bread, torn into pieces and pulsed in food processor into coarse crumbs
2 1/2 cups crushed cornflakes
1/2 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning (I used Penzey's)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1) Whisk buttermilk, mustard, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the hot sauce together in a large bowl. Add the chicken, turn to coat well, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
2) Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, set a wire rack on the sheet, and coat with vegetable oil spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
3) Gently toss the bread crumbs, corn flakes, remaining garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, poultry seasoning, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne in a shallow dish until combined. Drizzle vegetable oil over the crumbs and toss until well coated.
4) Working with one piece at a time, remove the chicken from the marinade and dredge in the crumbs mixture, firmly pressing the crumbs onto the sides of the chicken. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet leaving 1/2 inch between the pieces.
5) Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the juices run clear, about 35-45 minutes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Perfect Pesach

This past week is the celebration of Pesach (Passover), and it is a holiday I look forward to each year. Although I celebrate Easter, my best friend and her family celebrate Pesach. Since I consider her my sister in addition to my best friend, her family is also my second family. This year marks what I think is my 23rd or 24th seder with them! As always, it was perfect. Not because of the deliciously good food, but because of the deliciously good company and generous blessings we have. My best friend and her mom did all of the cooking, but I made a flourless chocolate orange cake for dessert. The Pesach meal is one of my favorite meals from start to finish...

The matzoh ball soup recipe comes from my best friend's great grandmother. It is, by far, the best matzoh ball soup I have ever had...and I have tried many! There are some years that when I take home leftovers, I eat it for breakfast the next morning. The matzoh balls (knaidlach) are light, airy, and perfectly textured. Here you see them swimming in a homemade chicken broth with lots of carrots, celery, fresh parsley, and fresh dill!
Gefilte fish gets a bad rap because most people have tasted it out of a jar. Well, not my best friend's mom! She makes hers homemade! It is phenomenal and there is not one iota of fishy taste to it! The horseradish (morror - bitter herbs) is a great accompaniment. I love dipping matzoh into the extra jelly that remains on the plate.
Green bean salad is something I also look forward to each year. It is also referred to as the "vegetarian chopped liver" and it is quite addictive. I try not to fill up on it before the seder meal, but that is impossible. Trust me.
Usually my best friend's mom makes a delicious brisket, but this year she decided to make a leg-of-lamb. Being Armenian, I admit that as much as I love brisket, I didn't miss it this year! My best friend's mom did the usual garlic and rosemary, but basted it as her mother would have: with beer! Let me tell you, that worked!
Here is the traditional seder place. Please read here to learn more about the beautiful symbols that mark this holy plate on the evening of seder.
And here is my dinner plate! The lamb, potato kugel, and roasted asparagus with red onion. Oh, and of course a glass of Manischewitz wine! If you have not tried it, you are not missing much! Its grape juice with a kick! I enjoy many other Kosher wines now after years of B.Y.O.M. (Bring Your Own Manischewitz).
The flourless orange chocolate cake is one I apparently have to make again. I do not consider myself a baker, but this came out well and not one crumb was left. I also candied my own orange slices from a Food and Wine recipe here. Enjoy!

Orange Flourless Chocolate Cake (courtesy of Epicurious)

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
flour, for dusting
6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
1 cup of sugar (I used a tad less and it worked perfectly)
zest of one large orange
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
10x sugar/powdered sugar for dusting (I omitted this and made candied orange slices)

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter and flour a 10-inch (25-cm) round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter and flour the parchment paper. Gently melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Stir the butter into the chocolate to melt, and stir until smooth. Remove from the double boiler and whisk the sugar and orange zest into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk well. Sift the cocoa powder over the chocolate mixture and whisk the batter until totally smooth. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top has formed a good crust. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thank You, Earl of Sandwich!

I honestly am so tired from work last week that I was too tired to cook anything complicated on this rainy and cold Sunday evening in New York. With the holidays this week, I am preparing to cook for both Easter and Passover. Still, I needed some comfort food tonight without the guilt. I cannot believe I am saying this, but this was one of the *best* grilled cheese sandwiches I *ever* had! I can't believe its a healthy recipe, too! I have made these zucchini chips before and they are a wonderful side dish to any hot or cold sandwich.

I sipped a lovely and local white wine: Local Flavor Chardonnay by Peconic Bay Winery out on the North Fork of Long Island, New York. It was light and crisp and paired perfectly.

Apple and Cheddar Grilled Cheese (courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
8 slices of thick, whole wheat bread
8 slices of 2% milk sharp cheddar cheese (I used Kraft)
1 medium Gala apple, cored and thinly sliced
Cooking spray

1) Combine mustard and mayonnaise in a small bowl. Spread evenly on bread slices. Layer each of 4 bread slices with 1 slice of cheese, 1/4 of apple slices, and 1 slice of cheese. Top with remaining bread slices. Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray.
2) Heat large, nonstick skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook sandwiches 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and cheese has melted.

(Yields 4 sandwiches, 7 points per sandwich)

Zucchini Chips (courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)

1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 egg
Cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2) Place breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over zucchini slices.
3) Dip zucchini slices into egg and dredge in bread crumbs, pressing firmly to coat. Place zucchini slices on a baking sheet coated with cooking spay.
4) Bake at 475 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. (I served mine with some light blue cheese dressing - delicious!).

(Yields 4 servings of 7 chips at 1 point each plus extra for dipping)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Labor of Love Lasagna!

My supper club decided that next month's theme will be recipes from Cooking Light Magazine. I started thumbing through recipes already and saw a dish that I wanted to make this week since it looked so good and was easy to freeze. This lasagna was a labor of love, let me tell you! I can't believe I prepared this dish on a weeknight, but it was well worth it.

Three different pots, a casserole dish, multiple bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a garlic press, two different wooden spoons, a large ladle, and a dirty spoon rest are all piled high in my kitchen sink!

I tweaked the recipe originally published by the magazine and was happy with the results! It was light, yet the creamy spinach sauce and browned cheese on top were rich in flavor and made for a guiltless piece of comfort food!

Garden-Style Lasagna (Adapted from Cooking Light)
Olive oil
Cooking spray
2 cups chopped yellow onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped zucchini
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 box of frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 cups of 1% milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
dash of nutmeg
1 tub (16 ounces) of 1% whipped cottage cheese (Friendship brand is best)
2 cups reduced fat shredded Italian blend cheeses (Sargento brand is best)
16 lasagna noodles, cooked and divided

1) Heat oven to 375 degrees and coat lasagna pan using cooking spray
2) Add one tablespoon olive oil to dutch oven on medium heat and cook onions until they are translucent and light brown, 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Spoon mixture into bowl.
3) Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and stir in zucchini. Saute for 8 minutes until it begins to brown; add onion mixture back into dutch oven.
4) Add a teaspoon of olive oil to pan and stir in carrots, sauteing for 8 minutes. Add thawed broccoli. Salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another minute and set aside.
5) In a medium saucepan, place flour in and slowly whisk in milk. Bring do a low boil, constantly whisking for 2 minutes. Add spinach, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep on low simmer so sauce stays warm.
6) Cook lasagna noodles according to directions minus 2 minutes since they will soften in the oven.
7) Assemble the lasagna: Place noodles on bottom of pan. Spread cottage cheese over the noodles. Add the spinach sauce and then the vegetable mixture. Repeat until you have noodles on top. Add the last of the spinach sauce on top and then place Italian cheese over the sauce.
8) Bake for 20 minutes
9) Place oven on low broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese on top browns nicely.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cooking with Kids!

I love cooking with my four year-old nephew! Our culinary repertoire is limited because, well, he is four, but he loves to assist in the kitchen! With my sister, his mommy, he helps out by mixing cookie dough, sprinkling cinnamon on French toast, and whisks eggs for scrambling.

He and I make homemade pizza together and he does most of the work as we sing "That's Amore" by Dino (he knows the words) and flips the pizza dough. In his chef hat and choo-choo train apron, he is quite a talent in the kitchen already. I have my agenda...I would love to see him as a famous chef one day!

Last week I gave him The Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Karmel in order to expand our recipes in the kitchen. I went out and got some new ice pop holders (if you have kids, get these because they have a straw on the bottom which takes care of drips - no mess!) so we could make Tropical Pops. They were basically pina colada pops minus the rum...they were delicious! As you can see from the photo, they were also nephew approved! We made them on Saturday when New York was having gorgeously warm spring weather, so it was the perfect treat. He was a good sous chef and helped measure out and pour ingredients! I think his favorite part was playing with the citrus juicer!

Tropical Pops (Courtesy of The Toddler Cookbook by Annabel Karmel)

1 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple in juices
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1/3 cup of superfine sugar
juice of one lime

Blend all ingredients in a blender and then pour into ice pop molds and place in freezer. Allow pops to freeze for at least six hour but preferably overnight.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blissful Brunch in NYC

There is nothing quite like brunch in New York City on Sunday. Today was our first spell of spring weather on a weekend, so everyone was out and about. I had the most blissful brunch with my best friend, J.S., on the Lower East Side at a small and sweet spot called Little Giant. I have had amazing meals in my life with family and friends, but the best meals of my life are always with my best friend. Little Giant seemed rather apropos. Though she and I are both around 5 feet in height, we make up for stature in the depths of our friendship.
Sitting in the corner of the petite restaurant, we felt the breeze of the warm day flow into the open windows in front of us. No coffee is served here, just americano, so she had an espresso and I a cappuccino since we are both caffeine addicts. Getting that out of the way, we then looked at the brunch cocktail menu. We toasted to spring this afternoon, she with a perfectly peppery Bloody Mary and I with a perfectly peachy bellini.
Brunch was absolutely delicious and we both finished our entire plates! J.S. ordered Pig in a Poke: Crock of creamy stone ground grits topped with two poached eggs & andouille sausage. I I ordered the Biscuits and Gravy: Buttermilk-chive biscuits, two poached eggs, speck, and roasted garlic herb gravy. I enjoyed my dish immensely and the eggs were cooked perfectly. The speck was delicious and on the lighter side. The biscuits and gravy were, by far, the star of the plate. The biscuit was light and buttery and the gravy was thick with rich garlic notes. I tasted J.S.'s dish and the andouille sausage was spicy and delicious and really paired well with the creaminess of the grits. The prices are extremely reasonable and the service friendly. I would recommend brunch here anytime, and its a great place even if you are from out of town. There is al fresco dining available in the warm months as well!
After a leisurely brunch we walked into Soho and meandered in and out of shops. My heart stopped when I saw the storefront to the Miniature Stuffed Cupcakes baked by Melissa. J.S. said she had them before when they first opened and were giving away free samples. I had to try, despite being on a weight loss regiment! 3 for $3 is not exactly cheap, but popping these in your mouth is a priceless experience.
We had the mint chocolate chip, peanut butter and jelly, and the peanut butter cup!
After more walking and leisurely browsing stores (including Sur La Table), we ended up having a late afternoon refreshment in the winter garden at La Lanterna di Vittorio. Our view included a fountain situated right next to our cafe table. We sipped a lovely rose together and toasted once more to a beautiful day...