Friday, February 24, 2012

Oscar Winning Appetizers - Easy and Elegant

Bring a little simple elegance to your table this Sunday, while you are watching the awards, with these easy appetizers. I love the simplicity of them all. Camembert and pears is a great appetizer for those who are watching their diet, because the pear is the base for the cheese. The ricotta and fig crisps with honey, is another healthy option by using multi grain crackers. The sweetness of the fig butter and honey is delicious. Another simple appetizer is the prosciutto wrapped gnocchi. Using store bought Parmesan gnocchi makes this appetizers even easier.

Camembert and Pear by Peter Callahan, celebrity caterer

2 Bosc pears
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 small Camembert round
Garnish with Fresh oregano or mint leaves

Cut pears into thin slices. Squeeze lemon juice on the cut slices. Thinly slice Camembert and top each pear with one slice. Garnish with Oregano or mint.

Ricotta and Fig Crisps with Honey - Adapted from Gail Simmons - Top Chef Desserts

Whole wheat crackers of your choice. I used Trader Joe's Multigrain Crackers
1 jar Trader Joe's Fig Butter
1 small container of fresh ricotta
Honey (optional)
Sea salt or Kosher salt (optional)

Spread some ricotta an a cracker. Put a small dollop of fig butter on top. Add a few drops of honey on top. Sprinkle with a tiny pinch of salt.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Gnocchi - Adapted from Francois Payard

1 package Parmesan gnocchi (I used Pasta Prima 100% Natural from Dominick's)
1 package of prosciutto
Garlic olive oil

Wrap each piece of gnocchi with a strip of prosciutto. Secure with toothpick. Heat 1 tablespoon of garlic olive oil in a small saute pan. Cook gnocchi until the prosciutto is browned and the gnocchi is a bit too. Remove toothpicks before serving.
Wrap prosciutto around gnocchi, secure with toothpick

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chicken Limone with Spinach and Caper Cream Sauce

I love food challanges. I don't mean as in a competition, though. I don't think I will be a contestant on any shows like the next "Food Network Star" any time soon. I do like the challange of researching and developing a recipe, however. Recently, I was asked if I had a good recipe for Chicken Limone with Spinach. I knew that this was basically lemon chicken, but I liked that this person gave the dish a little sophistication, making it French. I have a large collection of cookbooks, and I looked through them all in search of a recipe. I did find "lemon chicken" recipes, and "picatta" recipes, but nothing that included spinach. I was determined to find an actual dish that had these three main ingredients, chicken, lemon and spinach, that fit the description of the request. I went to the web. More chicken lemon recipes, but none really looked that great or seemed that different to me. So, I decided to create an easy dish that hopefully would inspire people to try. The chicken would be pounded and floured, much like a traditional chicken marsala or a chicken picatta, but I didn't want the coating to be too heavy. I wanted to be able to taste the chicken, and not the breading, and for the chicken to be tender and moist, and not dried out. I thought I would try cake flour for its fine texture. Cake flour is much more finer than regular all-purpose flour. The other ingrediets would include lemon and chicken or course, but the key to this dish has to be the sauce. The sauce is the best part. Using finely chopped shallots and garlic, chicken broth to deglaze the pan after cooking the chicken, capers, to give a slightly salty flavor, and lemon juice and a touch of cream, will create a velvety lemoney sauce. I will garnish with chopped Italian parsley and a very thin slice of lemon, and that will my dish.

Chicken Limone with Spinach and Caper Cream Sauce

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, pounded 1/4 inch thick
1/3 cup cake flour, plus 1/2 teaspoon
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 shallot, finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup chicken broth, plus 1 tablespoon if needed
3 tablespoons heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon if needed
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups fresh baby spinach
Olive oil

Between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper, pound chicken breasts until 1/4 inch thick. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in cake flour, shaking excess off. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan. Cook chicken on medium high for about 5 minutes on each side or until turning a pale golden brown. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan. Remove chicken to plate. Add chicken broth, scraping up any bits from the pan. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, capers, shallots, garlic, and cream. Reduce heat to medium. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Add two tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon of cake flour to thicken sauce. Add chicken back to pan. Cook covered for 2 to 3 minutes on each side to coat chicken with sauce. Remove again, add spinach to pan and saute until spinach is wilted, about one minute or less. If sauce is too thick, add a little bit of chicken broth to thin out. Put spinach on plate and top with chicken. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley. Serves two.

After making this creation I took a taste. The chicken was tender and moist. The cake flour did exactly what I wanted it to do. The sauce is lemony. If you want a milder lemon flavor, then you could omit the lemon zest and cut back the lemon juice. I personally love it. The creamy sauce with the capers is so delicious. I hope you try this at home.


Cook chicken until golden

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lamb Chops with Mustard-Molasses Glaze

I have some picky eaters at home, so the time I made these lamb chops I wasn't sure how they would go over. However, they were such a hit that we now refer to this recipe simply as "Bobby Flay", the Food Network's star who's recipe this is. I thought I would make it tonight for Valentine's Day, because it is a special dish. So simple to make, and worth standing in the cold to grill them. I buy the small, bone in, thick chops. Enjoy!

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Lamb Chops with Mustard-Molasses Glaze

For the mustard-molasses glaze:
1 cup dark molasses
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

In small bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Can be made a day ahead, refrigerate.

For the lamb chops:
Salt, pepper, olive oil

Brush lamb chops with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill chops for 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Turn over and baste with glaze, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn, brush glaze on again, cook for an additional 3 minutes.  Turn one more time, repeat glaze and cook two minutes. You will suck on the bones these are so good!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hot Chocolate Cakes

Yesterday, I attempted to make flourless chocolate cookies, but it wasn't successful. I will try again, but in the meantime, I had four egg yolks left over from that recipe test. The recipe called for 4 egg whites, and I saved the yolks to use in another recipe. I didn't know what that recipe would be though. Going through my library of cookbooks, I came across a recipe for individual chocolate souffle cakes. Similar to those lava cakes, with the warm, melted chocolate centers that ooze through the chocolaty warm cake. Chocolate lovers everywhere are drooling right now. Yes, this is the perfect recipe to try because it uses up my egg yolks, it uses 6 main ingredients, and it seems simple enough that maybe it would inspire someone to try. The most challenging part of this recipe uses a technique called tempering. Don't be put off by this. It is simply warming the cold ingredient, the eggs, and adding them to the hot mixture, the melted chocolate. This step is important because if you don't do it correctly you will have scrambled eggs in your chocolate. Yuck! The cake part of these mini souffles are chocolaty and dense, much like a flourless chocolate cake. The center was creamy, like a pudding. This recipe will make 6 to 8 small cakes, depending on the size of mold or ramekin you use. Take your time in preparing these little pots of chocolaty goodness and you will be successful.

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Hot Chocolate Cakes from the Neiman Marcus Cookbook

1 1/2 sticks butter
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped or bittersweet morsels
1 tablespoon vanilla (original recipe calls for two tablespoons of Amaretto)
4 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Butter for preparing the molds or ramekins
Granulated sugar for preparing the molds or ramekins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour and the confectioners sugar and set aside. Butter your mold or ramekins. Sprinkle granulated sugar on the bottom and turn the mold coating to coat the bottom and sides with the sugar. Set on a baking sheet. Using a double boiler, or a heat proof glass bowl, or metal bowl, melt the butter and chocolate. Add the vanilla or Amaretto, if using. Remove from heat. Using a wire whisk, mix eggs. Temper the eggs by putting about a quarter of a cup of the melted chocolate in to the eggs and mix. Now, add the egg mixture to the melted chocolate, while whisking to combine. The mixture will become thick. Add the sifted flour mixture to the chocolate and stir combining the two well. Spoon the batter in to the molds, about half full. Bake until the sides come away from the mold, and the center looks glossy, but slightly firm. It will look a little like a brownie. You can serve in the molds, or remove them, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream would be nice on the side. Either way, they are so yummy!

Sift flour and confectioners sugar
Prepare molds or ramekins

Melt butter and chocolate

Melted chocolate with tempered eggs

Add flour mixture

Out of the oven

This one is out of mole and cooled

Cooled, dense chocolate inside

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Asian Tofu Lettuce Wraps

I love the lettuce wraps at PF Changs, but I can't always go there to get them. This version is just as tasty. You could substitute ground chicken or turkey for the tofu. Some people don't like tofu. They don't like the texture or they say it has no flavor. When you use tofu in a dish it takes on the flavors of what you are using to season with. I chopped the tofu in very small pieces that it almost resembled chopped cooked chicken. This is a quick and healthy meal that is delicious and satisfying. If you are looking for a meatless dinner option, this is great. Serve with steamed brown rice.

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Tofu Lettuce Wraps

1 head of iceburg lettuce or 2 small heads Boston lettuce
7 ounces (1/2 a package) firm tofu, drained and chopped
1 can waterchestnuts, chopped
1 cup shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil, for sauce, plus 2 tablespoons for saute pan

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic sauce and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to make sauce, set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in saute pan on medium heat. Add tofu, and saute for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, bean sprouts and waterchestnuts. Add some of the sauce made earlier, making sure not to make mixture too watery. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Add some scallions, saving some for a garnish. Serve in lettuce cups. Season with some of the reserved sauce. Enjoy!

Make the sauce first
Chopped tofu
Cooking in the pan.  If you have too much liquid, cook until some evaporates.
Plated Tofu Lettuce Wraps
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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Carrie's Bruschetta Chicken with Pasta

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A few weeks ago I posted about roasting grape tomatoes, which were really delicious, by the way. If you haven't tried them yet, you must. My husband, who doesn't like tomatoes, loved them with the pasta. Tonight, I am revisiting them again, but adding chicken, as suggested by a fellow foodie. Enjoy!

Carrie's Bruschetta Chicken with Pasta
 For Tomatoes and Pasta:
1 large container of grape tomatoes
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Lucini Basil Olive Oil
1/2 box of thin spaghetti
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Fresh basil, chopped

For Chicken:
Marinate 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with salt, olive oil, dried rosemary, and garlic powder for an hour. Let chicken rest out of refrigerator for about 30 minutes before grilling.

Combine first 5 ingredients on a baking pan, roast tomatoes at 400 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until tomatoes are a little brown. Meanwhile, cook pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining. Grill chicken for about 10 to 15 minutes, until cooked through. Plate chicken and cover with foil. Combine roasted tomatoes and their juice with pasta and a drizzle of olive oil. Add some pasta water, and combine. Put pasta and tomatoes on platter, top with chicken, garnish with parsley and fresh basil.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Mustard-Dill Dipping Sauce

Pretzels make a great coating for chicken that is crunchy. I made some chicken breasts using non-stick cooking spray to fry the chicken in, and then finished cooking them in the oven at 375 for about 15 minutes. You can spray a little oil on the top to help the crisping process in the oven. The result was good, if you are looking for a little healthier alternative to using oil. Frying the chicken in oil made the outer crust a little more crunchy. This recipe, from Fine Cooking magazine, is easy as it is delicious. The mustard dipping sauce is excellent, and made a good dip for the roasted potatoes that I made on the side too. A family favorite for sure.

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Mustard Dill Sauce

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 small lunch packages of pretzels, ground in food processor to make crumbs
6 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 vegetable oil or cooking spray

In three separate bowls or shallow dishes, place flour in one, lightly beaten eggs with tablespoon of mustard in another, and the ground pretzel crumbs in the third dish. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour first, then egg, then pretzel crumbs. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. To make the dipping sauce, whisk together the mustard, mayonnaise, dill and honey, until smooth. Serves 6

Using a mini Cuisinart to make crumbs
Before cooking
Everyone loved!

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