Friday, May 28, 2010

Lentils with Spicy Sausage - serves 4 with leftovers

I'm headed to Italy in 4 days and you would think I wouldn't crave Italian food. The other day we had end of school parties, baseball (again) and I was delivering a meal to a friend. I wanted something quick and easy that I could fix in advance and come home to something that would end my day with a satisfying meal along with a shower to wipe the gripe away from my body. This stew did the trick. The wonderful thing about this stew is that not only does it have a lot of vegetables, but parsnips. My kids (and husband) still think they were potatoes. A great "sneak" effect for those of you who want to try something different. (They taste just like potatoes.) Enjoy and I look forward to sending wonderful Italian recipes upon my return!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fully cooked hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 large parsnips, peeled, chopped (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 large celery stalks, chopped about 1 cup
21/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning blend
1 pound brown lentils (about 2 1/3 cups)
3 quarts (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl. Add onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, and Italian seasoning blend to drippings in pot; cook until onion is translucent and vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, 7 to 8 minutes. Add lentils; stir to coat. Add 3 quarts broth. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if soup is too thick, 20 minutes.

Add sausage to soup and simmer until vegetables are tender and flavors blend, 10 to 12 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter, serves 4

I'm about to leave for Italy in a week and I'm already getting excited about the food. We eat a lot of pasta in this house and I love experimenting with all types. My kids could eat macaroni, spaghetti and fusilli until they turn to noodles themselves, but I try to keep it mysterious and fun when cooking different types of pasta. Gnocchi is fun. It can be substituted for just about any pasta and is served wonderfully with meat and an assortment of vegetables, like this recipe here. Gnocchi can be bought in the pasta section of Whole Foods/Central Market and is sometimes found in the frozen food isle. If you'd like to make your own, let me know and I'll send you the recipe.

1 pound fresh, pre-packaged or frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 pound zucchini, (about 3 small), very thinly sliced lengthwise (see Tip)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Cook gnocchi until they float, 3 to 5 minutes or according to package directions. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter is beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add shallots and zucchini and cook, stirring often, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, nutmeg and pepper and continue cooking, stirring often, until the tomatoes are just starting to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and parsley. Add the gnocchi and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm starting to get tired of baseball in the middle of dinnertime tacos - serves 4 plus any boys that come home with the coach

Ok, I do love a good baseball game. But when it interferes with dinner time it just makes me mad. I'm a chef and I can't go feeding my kids PB&J at 8 - 8:30pm once they get home from baseball. And, since it's not good luck to my son not to have me there to watch him pitch, I have to go. Can't cook anything when I get back so something has to be done beforehand. What can replace the cold sandwich??? Thank goodness for rotisserie chickens. Yes, I like to do my own, but the thought of meat coming out of plastic or something creamy coming out of a jar makes me what to throw it against the door of the refrigerator. My quick solution is as follows (and yes, fish tacos were last week, but this just hit me today...)

1 Rotisserie chicken (preferrably from Whole Foods ), shredded (leftovers later!)
1 pkg corn tortillas
2 limes
1 can of Organic Refried Beans, warmed
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup queso fresco
Your favorite hot sauce

Warm rotisserie during baseball game. When you get home, wrap however many tortillas you want in a damp paper towel, heating in microwave for about 45 seconds to 1 minute or until warmed through. Top tortillas with beans, shredded chicken, squeeze of lime, cilantro, queso fresco and hot sauce.

Now that's a homerun, folks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fish Tacos - serves 6

I have a very good friend of mine who recently told me she still makes my fish tacos. I think I made them for her 10 years ago. I think that was the last time we had dinner together. Who knows how many times I've made this tried and true recipe... it's easy and can be made with just about any fish you like. My theory on fish recently is somewhat altered since we can't be to sure what they're eating these days, like BP Oil. SO, that being said, make sure you ask your butcher where the fish has come from, especially in the next few weeks. Top this meal off with some pinto beans and you'll have a mini food fiesta right in your own kitchen.

4 tilapia fillets (or catfish)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 6 limes
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
Feta cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, diced
12 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 375. Arrange fish on foil lined baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil to lightly cover fillets. Season with garlic, lime juice, Kosher salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, wrap corn tortillas in damp paper towel and foil.

Bake fillets and tortillas for 8 minutes, or until fish pulls apart easily. Remove from oven and chop fillets. Place on corn tortillas and top with cilantro, Feta cheese and diced avocado.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chicken Piccata with Pasta and Mushrooms - serves 4

I have a lot of friends who ask me how to cook chicken other than BBQ, without cream of mushroom soup on top (blah!) or just thrown on/in the grill/oven with minimal seasoning. Chicken can be prepared a lot of ways and you can divert from the "norm" to make it fun, more palatable and different.. My husband used to hate chicken or "yard bird" as he called it, until I took away his Heinz 57 and showed him how it's really done. This recipe is simple and will have your buds popping with delight.

6 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 chicken cutlets, (3/4-1 pound total), trimmed
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 10-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons butter

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, whisk 5 teaspoons flour and broth in a small bowl until smooth. Place the remaining flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge both sides in the flour. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned and no longer pink in the middle, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate; cover and keep warm.

Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their juices and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add garlic and wine to the pan and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth-flour mixture, lemon juice and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in parsley, capers, butter and the reserved mushrooms. Measure out 1/2 cup of the mushroom sauce. Toss the pasta in the pan with the remaining sauce. Serve the pasta topped with the chicken and the reserved sauce.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Rhubarb Waffles with Rhubarb Sauce - Serves 6 (because you're going to want more)

Ok, I don't bake. It's out there. I don't care for it because baking makes me really mad when I mess up. The bad thing about baking is that when you do mess up, you can't fix it. You have to start all over. You could just pour chocolate syrup over it and make it your own, but that likely won't work. My good friends already know this yet when I do bake, it's got to have fruit in it. Rhubarb is amazing. This recipe is amazing. And for you mom's out there who do most the cooking and want your husband to wow you this coming Mother's Day, hand them this recipe and you will start your morning skipping around the house.


1 1/4 pounds rhubarb, trimmed and diced (1/4 inch), about 5 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar


3 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

To prepare sauce: Combine rhubarb and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook until the rhubarb is tender and translucent. Transfer about 1 cup of the rhubarb to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, and reserve for the waffle batter. Boil the remaining rhubarb in syrup over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
To prepare waffles: Whisk egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in milk and oil. Stir in the reserved 1 cup cooked rhubarb. Sift all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the egg-milk mixture just until moistened.
Preheat a waffle iron. (If your waffle iron is not nonstick, brush it lightly with oil.) Fill the iron about two-thirds full. Close and cook the waffles until they are nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter, coating the waffle iron lightly with oil, if necessary, before cooking each batch. Serve hot, topped with the rhubarb sauce.

You can prepare the sauce ahead and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature or heat before serving. (This will also ensure you get this for breakfast :) )

Monday, May 3, 2010

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables - serves 4 with leftovers

Spring is here! If you are in Texas that means it lasts only 2 weeks. However, vegetables that were planted in the fall are ready to be eaten and there's nothing better than pairing them with pasta (and a good Sauavignon Blanc). This is a quick recipe that can be prepared with any veggie. I recommend visiting your local farmers market to see what's available!

2 slices of white sandwich bread, finely chopped (1 cup)
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbs snipped chives
1 tbs chopped tarragon
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch broccolini
1 pd farfalle pasta (bowtie pasta)
4 tbs unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 scallions thinly sliced
1 cup fresh peas, shelled or frozen, thawed
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stiiring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in half each of the parsley, chives and tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, 1 minute; using tongs, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Boil the pasta until al dente (don't over boil!), reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Drain.

In a deep skillet, melt the butter in the remaining 6 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, fennel, scallions, peas and broccolini and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs. Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving. Pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy!