Archive | July, 2010

Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic and Arugula Vinaigrette

20 Jul

Zak and I recently found some beautiful buy one, get one free pork loins at our local supermarket and couldn’t pass up the deal.  10 pounds of pork for $9.00?  Yes, please!  While figuring out what to make with them, I came across a tasty-sounding recipe for Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette I had set aside from La Bella Cook.  I made significant changes to the original recipe, but since it was my inspiration, I thought it was only fair to throw the link on here.

The pork loin turned out tender and incredibly moist.  I’ve been a fan of roasted garlic for awhile now, but Zak recently became a convert when his friend threw a head on the grill over the weekend of the Fourth and has been begging me to make some since.  This meal was super garlic-y, but the arugula brightened it up and really made the pork sing.  I served it alongside some steamed broccolini.

Roasted Pork Loin with Roasted Garlic and Arugula Vinaigrette

Adapted from La Bella Cook

Serves 4-6

4-5 lb. pork loin

4 cloves garlic, halved

1 tbs. garlic salt

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. dried sweet basil

cooking spray

1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

1/4 cup baby arugula

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly cracked pepper

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Cut small slits in pork loin and insert halved garlic cloves evenly throughout meat.

In a small bowl, combine garlic salt, black pepper, paprika and dried sweet basil.  Rub over entire pork loin to form a crust.  Let pork loin sit in refrigerator a minimum of 4-6 hours.

Heat oven to 350° and cover a shallow, oven-proof casserole dish with tinfoil.  Spray with cooking spray.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.   Brown pork loin 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown crust forms over entire loin.  Place browned loin in casserole and cook roughly 20 minutes per pound until internal temperature reaches 160°.  Remove from oven and wrap with foil.  Let rest 15-20 minutes.

When roughly 45 minutes to an hour is left in pork cooking time, drizzle halved garlic head with olive oil and dust with kosher salt.  Wrap each half tightly in tinfoil and place in oven.  Remove with pork loin.  Reserve half of head for sauce and half for eating with the pork.

While pork is resting, combine garlic cloves from half head of garlic (removed by squeezing at the base of each clove), arugula, balsamic, salt, pepper, and sugar in food processor.  Pulse until blended.  With food processor running, drizzle oil into machine.  Taste and re-season as necessary.

To serve, slice rested pork into 3/4″ thick slices and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Ricotta, Asiago and Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

17 Jul

While this recipe would make a great starter for a lengthier meal or dinner party, Zak and I ate them for dinner alongside a boiled artichoke with some butter.  I loved the creamy cheese set against the crispy panko and the slight acidity of the tomato paired with the rich cheese and smoky ham.  The fresh basil really set off the flavors.  Next time, I’ll add a few tablespoons of lemon juice and a few teaspoons of lemon zest to the cheese filling – I have a feeling it will really make this dish shine.  I’ll post a note when I try it out, which I’m sure will be soon enough.  It’s quickly approaching tomato season here in Ohio and it’s hard to use them up as fast as my wonderful parents can grow them.

Ricotta, Asiago and Goat Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

Adapted from For the Love of

Serves 2

2 large tomatoes, cut in half with pulp and seeds removed

1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, minced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 slice low sodium Boar’s Head ham, chopped (roughly 1/4 cup chopped)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup asiago fresco, shredded

1/4 cup goat cheese

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup Japanese-style panko bread crumbs

Olive oil flavored cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400º.

Season cleaned tomato halves with salt and pepper to taste.  Combine all other ingredients, except panko bread crumbs, including more salt and pepper to taste, in a large mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly with your hands or a spatula.  Fill each tomato shell with enough to be level.

Place panko in small bowl or on a plate.  Dip each tomato in the panko until cheese is almost totally covered.

Spray a glass casserole dish large enough to contain tomatoes with cooking spray.  Place tomatoes, preferably not touching one another, in the dish.  Spray panko-crusted tops with cooking spray.  Place in oven and bake 25-35 minutes until topping is light golden brown and cheese is hot and melted.  Let the tomatoes rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Southwestern Salad with Jalapeno-Honey Dressing

16 Jul

This is the perfect summer salad.  It  has a great balance of sweet and spicy, thanks to the combination of honey, corn and roasted jalapeños.  The textures were also lovely, with plenty of crunch from the tortilla chips and corn and velvety smoothness from the olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  This was a delicious, healthy dinner!  The dressing could also be made with extra virgin olive oil, but I prefer the clean flavors of canola oil, which has a great good-to-bad fat ratio and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, in this particular dressing.

Southwestern Salad with Jalapeño-Honey Dressing

Serves 2

Crispy Tortilla Strips:

3 soft taco sized flour tortillas cut into 1/2″ strips

Olive oil flavored cooking spray

Kosher salt, to taste

Cumin, to taste


3 fresh jalapeños

1/2 cup packed fresh flat leaf parsley

1/4 cup cucumber, roughly diced

zest and juice of 1 large lemon

zest and juice of 1 small lime

1/4 cup honey

About 1/2 cup canola oil

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Other ingredients:

5 oz. baby arugula

2 cups frozen sweet corn, defrosted

3 large radishes, thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, diced

1/4 cup sliced button mushrooms

1/8 cup black olives, sliced

1/2 large tomato, diced

Shredded Mexican cheese, to taste (not pictured)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Place tortilla strips in a single layer on the baking sheet and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Season with cumin and salt to taste.  Bake 10-12 minutes until light golden brown, stirring halfway through baking time (return to a single layer).  Remove from baking sheet and set aside.  Save baking sheet for next step.

For the dressing, heat broiler.  Spray reserved baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place jalapeños on baking sheet and put under broiler, turning over occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until skin is lightly charred.  Set aside to cool, reserving one roasted jalapeño for salad.

While jalapeños are roasting, assemble other dressing ingredients.  Remove stems from jalapeños and cut into thirds.  If you don’t want your dressing spicy, remove seeds and ribs (or partially remove, to taste).  We like spice, so I left all of the seeds and ribs in the jalapeños.  Some people will recommend you remove the charred skin from the roasted jalapeño, but I personally love the light taste of “char,” so I leave it.  Add parsley, cucumber, zest and juice of lemon, zest and juice of lime, honey, jalapeños, and salt and pepper to taste to a food processor.  While running the processor, slowly drizzle in canola oil until the texture of the dressing is mostly smooth.  Taste and re-season as necessary.  Set aside.

Combine corn, radishes, cucumber, reserved jalapeño, mushrooms, black olives, and tomatoes.  Add dressing to corn mixture and allow to marinade in refrigerator at least one hour.  Just prior to serving, toss with arugula.  Top with reserved tortilla strips and shredded Mexican cheese blend to taste.


Perfect Roast Chicken

14 Jul

Ohhhh, roast chicken, my most favorite of comfort foods.  Due to the fact that it is tasty, easy, versatile, and economical, this is a weekly staple in our household.  By adjusting the flavors of the brine, what you put in the cavity, and any glaze or rub you choose to make, you can satisfy any sweet, salty, spicy, or other flavor profile craving you may have.

While this is my favorite way to make a delicious, moist, flavorful roast chicken, almost any of the ingredients listed below can be changed, with the exception of the water, salt, and sugar content for the brine.  The recipe below results in a slightly spicy, slightly sweet chicken with hints of sage and rosemary and the perfect salty-goodness, but use whatever you have on hand to experiment with flavor profiles.  I included the recipe for a quick and simple balsamic glaze, although it is not necessary to a delicious chicken.  It happens to be what I added this week, and I wanted to stay true to the picture.

I always use a fryer (also known as a broiler) chicken, which simply means that it is a between 7-13 weeks old and weighs between 1 1/2 and 4 lbs.  I aim for a bird that’s right around 4 lbs.  This is the perfect size for a dinner for the two of us with enough left over for another meal and to make some stock.

Personally, I think a brine is the easiest and most effective way to impart outstanding flavor and moistness to the meat of a roasted chicken.  It’s a step I almost never do without.  If you don’t like salt, you might want to skip the brining step, but a proper salt-to-sugar-to-water balance in combination with the proper brining time, as outlined below, does not result in a salty bird.  Rather, it draws in the accompanying herbaceous flavors and elevates the natural meaty goodness of the chicken.  This step can easily be accomplished before running off to work in the morning.

Now, I am not good at math, so I had to roast my fair share of chickens before I could easily calculate brining and roasting times accurately.  My general rule of thumb is to leave the chicken in the brining solution about one hour, but certainly no longer than two hours, per pound.  Less than that does little to draw in the flavors of the seasoning of the brining solution, and more than that results in an over-salty or mushy-textured chicken.  Twenty minutes per pound has been a successful rule of thumb for roasting time over the coarse of my chicken-cooking career, but a meat thermometer is the best way to tell when any meat is truly cooked.  I recommend the thigh reach a temperature of 170° or so (the temperature will continue to rise as the chicken rests), while the USDA recommends 180°.  Use your judgment.

Finally, SAVE YOUR SCRAPS, including giblets, necks, bones, scrap meat, fat, and skin.  Leftover chicken carcasses can be thrown in the freezer and used to make the most delicious homemade stock.  The box stuff is garbage in comparison to the silky, gelatinous, chemical-free stock that you can make for pennies on the dollar, and very little effort, in your own home.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Serves 2

1 whole fryer/broiler chicken, rinsed in cold water with neck and giblets removed (save these for stock!)


2-3 cups water per pound of chicken

1/2 cup kosher salt per pound of chicken (less if you will be brining for longer than one hour per pound)

1/2 cup white, granulated sugar per pound of chicken

2 tsps. whole black peppercorns, plus more for extra seasoning

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, plus more for extra seasoning

8-10 large fresh sage leaves

3 extra large sprigs, stems included, fresh rosemary (the ones I used were about a foot long each)

3 cloves garlic, crushed with flat of knife

2 small limes, quartered


3 tbs. honey

2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 tbs. olive oil

Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To begin, in a medium or large saucepan heat roughly half of the water necessary for the final brining solution over medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer.  A little at a time, add kosher salt and sugar while whisking until dissolved.  It may be necessary to add more water to the saucepan in order to dissolve all of the salt and sugar.  Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, transfer the water, plus any additional water according the measurements above, to a container large enough to hold the brining solution and chicken.  This can be done in a large ziplock bag, though I prefer to use a large stock pot.

Add all other brine ingredients and allow brining solution to cool to room temperature, placing solution in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes if necessary.  Once the solution is room temperature or cool to the touch, add the chicken to the solution.  Place the chicken in the refrigerator and let soak in brining solution about one hour per pound (round up to the nearest hour).

Rule of Thumb: Chicken should be brined one hour per pound, rounding up to the nearest hour.

Remove chicken from brining solution by straining through a colander.  Make sure you save all herbs and limes, as they will be used to dress the chicken.  Allow the chicken to rest at least an hour, preferably 2-4 hours, uncovered in the refrigerator.  This allows most of the moisture to evaporate from the skin of the chicken, which will result in a crispier skin (my favorite part!).  [EDIT:  While 2-4 hours of resting time is okay, I really recommend letting it rest overnight.  The skin gets extra crispy this way.]

Preheat oven to 475°.

Remove chicken from refrigerator and place in large casserole dish on top of a roasting rack.  Separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken breast using your hand (or a pair of scissors as necessary) and pluck a few rosemary and sage leaves from reserved brining ingredients.  Place these under the skin of the chicken as evenly as possible.  Season the rest of the chicken with freshly cracked black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to taste.  DO NOT add extra salt during this step, as the salt from the brine will be enough for a perfectly seasoned chicken.

Stuff as many limes and herbs reserved from the brining solution as will fit into the cavity of the chicken, discarding any extras.

Place chicken in preheated oven on center rack.  Roast at 475° for 15 minutes or until skin is light golden brown.  Meanwhile, prepare glaze by whisking together ingredients in a small bowl.  Brush glaze over entire chicken following “high heat” blast.

After 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350°.  Roast chicken roughly 20 minutes per pound (rounding up to nearest pound), or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken’s thigh reads 165°.  If chicken becomes overly brown, tent with a piece of tinfoil.  Reapply glaze in the last 10 minutes of cooking.

When fully cooked, remove chicken from oven and cover with tinfoil.  Rest 15-20 minutes, which will allow juices to redistribute and result in a tender, juicy bird.

Rule of Thumb: Roast chicken 15 minutes at 475º, and then 20 minutes per pound at 350º.  Rest chicken 15-20 minutes.

Tomato and Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

12 Jul

This dish was sumptuous, rich, delicious and filling.  The cooking process, though mostly hands off, filled the house with the the most tantalizing smell all day.  The short ribs were falling off the bone (in fact, I had a hard time moving them from the casserole to the serving dish to get a picture without losing the bone entirely!).  The meat and vegetables were melt-in your mouth tender and the polenta soaked up the flavorful sauce and nicely offset the bold flavors of the ribs.  My only real problem with the dish was that it was a bit monochromatic, but a few quick snips of a green onion would have solved that problem.

Tomato and Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Polenta

Serves 2

Short Ribs:

2-3 lbs. bone-in beef short ribs (5-6 ribs)

3 cups homemade beef stock

3 cups red wine (I used shiraz)

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

8-10 large fresh sage leaves, chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

2-4 tsps. canola oil, divided

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 heaping tsps. paprika

2 tsps. garlic salt

1 cup tomato sauce

1 large tomato, chopped

1 large white onion, cut into large chunks

1-2 medium carrots, cut into large chucks

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

Season short ribs with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  In a large bowl, combine beef stock, red wine, fresh sage leaves, garlic cloves, 2 tsps. canola oil, and salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Whisk ingredients together thoroughly and place ribs and marinade in a large zip lock bag.  Marinate ingredients a minimum of a few hours, but preferably overnight.

Seven hours prior to serving, preheat oven to 250° F.

Combine flour, paprika, garlic salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.  Set aside.

Remove ribs from the marinade, reserving marinade, including sage leaves and garlic cloves.  Lightly dredge ribs in flour mixture.    In large skillet, heat 1-2 tsps. canola oil over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add short ribs, being sure not to overcrowd.  If necessary, cook in batches.  Brown ribs on all sides until coating is a deep, golden-brown and lightly crispy.

Place browned ribs and reserved marinade in a casserole dish large enough to comfortably house all ribs.  Add tomato sauce and chopped tomato and cover very tightly with casserole lid or tinfoil.  Place casserole dish in preheated oven and braise, covered, 4-5 hours.  After 4-5 hours, add remaining ingredients (onion, carrot, and mushrooms) and braise another hour.

Remove casserole dish from oven.  Turn oven off.  Separate ribs from braising liquid and cover tightly with tinfoil.  Return vegetables with small amount of liquid to oven, which will remain warm for a bit.  Place braising liquid in a tall container and allow fat to rise to surface.  Skim fat from braising liquid and discard.  Simmer remaining liquid in a small, uncovered saucepan over medium-high heat to reduce 15-20 minutes.  This is a good point to start creamy polenta (recipe follows).  Serve the short ribs and vegetables over creamy polenta topped with reduced sauce.

Creamy Polenta:

4 cups homemade chicken stock

1 ½ cups finely ground polenta (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)

3 tbs. plain Greek yogurt

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

3 tbs. Brummel and Brown butter substitute

1 tsp. green Tabasco

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a slow simmer.  Quickly whisk cornmeal into the stock and continue whisking until slightly thickened.  Stir in the yogurt, Parmesan cheese, Brummel & Brown and salt and pepper, to taste.  Continue to stir and simmer 10-15 minutes until creamy.  Add Tabasco, salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

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