Archive | February, 2011

Sardine and Mustard Roasted Broccoli and Chickpea Spaghetti

26 Feb

When I made lemon-garlic sardine pasta with parmesan-roasted broccoli, I realized that sardines and broccoli are an excellent combination.  Thanks to a crown of broccoli I discovered while cleaning the fridge that had seen better days, I was inspired to combine them in one dish.  It turned out great – the sardines paired nicely with the broccoli.  Their rich, umami flavor was offset nicely by the acid from the balsamic and lemon juice and the heat of the crushed red pepper flakes.  The broccoli lent a nice crunch to the dish that worked well against the soft texture of the chickpeas.  Though the flavors of the sardines are more pronounced than in the lemon-garlic sardine pasta with parmesan-roasted broccoli, this is another great way to sneakily include sardines in a dish.  The flavors were bold, delicious, and nutritious, and this dish was very easy and quick to put together.

Sardine and Mustard Roasted Broccoli and Chickpea Spaghetti

Quarter-sized fistful of whole-wheat thin spaghetti

3 cups broccoli florets, rinsed

1 4.25 oz. tin sardines in water, bones removed, if desired

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tbs. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 1/2 tbs. balsamic vinegar

2 tbs. Jack Daniels stone ground dijon mustard

4 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Serve with lemon quarter for garnish

Preheat oven to 425º.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.

Combine sardines, garlic, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and mustard in a food processor or blender.  Pulse a few times to combine.  With machine running, slowly pour in olive oil.  Taste for seasonings.  The final consistency should be paste-like.

Toss broccoli florets with half of sardine mixture.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast 20-25 minutes, tossing occasionally, checking for doneness frequently in last ten minutes, until florets are crisp and the tips of the florets are lightly browned.

With about 8-10 minutes left in roasting time, add pasta to boiling water.  Cook according to package instructions until al dente, about 6 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add chickpeas and cook 2-3 minutes until heated through.  Add remaining sardine mixture and reserved pasta water.  Add pasta and roasted broccoli and toss to combine.  Serve immediately with lemon quarter for garnish.

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Sausage and Leek Baked Macaroni and Cheese

25 Feb

I thought about making this dish all  day.  I yearned for it, pined for it, fantasized about it.  My mouth watered over it, my tummy rumbled over it.  At a certain point, I began to tell myself, “Chill out.  It won’t be nearly as good as you’re imagining it will be.  You’re building it up too much.  You’re going to disappoint yourself!”  I wanted this to be good, because yesterday Zak told me he ate dinner on Monday at “this burger Asiany place” where he got a “truffle cheese and glazed burger and split a truffle beet salad.”  I asked him where and my suspicions were confirmed – Umami Burger.  I was jealous.

After I ate this, though, I wasn’t jealous.  All of my pining paid off.  This was delicious.  The crispy, smokey goodness of the sausage, the creamy deliciousness of the cheese and macaroni, and the slightly bitter flavor of the leek greens worked so well together.  The panko crust was buttery and crunchy.  This was so, so good.  It takes about 15 minutes of hands on time and is simple and easy.  If you can chop up some sausage and use a whisk, you can make this macaroni and cheese to end all macaroni and cheeses.

Sausage and Leek Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 cup elbow noodles, cooked al dente and drained (I used Barilla Plus for some extra nutritional value)

4 oz. smoked low fat turkey sausage, cut into 1/2″ dice

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 cup leek greens, roughly chopped

1/2 cup Swiss cheese, grated

1/2 cup very sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1/2 cup 1% milk

3 tbs. unsalted butter, softened and divided

1 tbs. all natural, whole wheat flour

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 425°.

Heat a olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add turkey sausage and sauté until well-browned and crispy, 8-10 minutes.  Add leek greens and stir to coat with any rendered fat and olive oil.  Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat milk in a small saucepan until heated through and barely at a simmer.

Melt 2 1/2 tbs. butter over medium heat in a medium sauté pan.  Slowly whisk in flour to form a rue.  While whisking, slowly add hot milk.  When smooth, while whisking, add grated cheese in small batches to form a sauce.

Mix together pasta, sauce, sausage, and leeks.  Season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Place in an oven proof bowl.

Mix together remaining 1/2 tbs. butter and bread crumbs.  Top noodles with bread crumbs and bake, uncovered, 25 minutes until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese sauce is bubbling.

Open-Faced Spicy Sardine and Avocado Sandwich with Poached Eggs

24 Feb

This open-faced sandwich – or a variation on it – is my favorite hearty snack or light lunch.  I added the poached egg to make this a more substantial dinner for myself.  It is super healthy and amazingly filling due to the high protein content.  It also has a boatload of vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, dietary fiber, and whole grains.  Plus, it’s delicious.  It’s hard to describe how well these flavors work together.  Sardines are a polarizing ingredient – you either love them or hate them.  I love them.  I owe that to my mom, who introduced them to me from a young age and got me addicted.  My maternal grandfather did the same for her.  Thank goodness there are sardine people in my family, because I can’t imagine not being a sardine person.  Either way, the creaminess of the avocado and the egg balances well against the salty fish and bite of the vinegar from the chili garlic sauce and the marinated garlic clove.  The lemon zest (and juice)  and parsley adds a freshness to the whole thing that really takes it to the next level.  Despite its humble beginnings, the final product is elegant and delicious.

This is a great cooking for one dish because, well … who wants to share the couch with someone who smells like they just ate a whole tin of sardines?  Because, you know, they just ate a whole tin of sardines.  Mashed up with garlic.  It’s also made with pantry staples and has about five minutes of hands on time.

Open-Faced Spicy Sardine and Avocado Sandwich with Poached Eggs

Adapted from Alton Brown

1 4.25 oz. tin sardines in water, smashed with fork and bones removed, if desired

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbs. fresh curly leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 lemon quartered

1 tsp. chili garlic sauce

1 whole marinated garlic clove, finely minced

2 slices whole wheat bread

1 ripe avocado, pit removed and flesh separated from peel, flesh smashed with a fork

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 jumbo eggs

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Whisk olive oil with parsley, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, lemon zest, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.

Mix smashed sardines with parsley and oil mixture.  It is preferable you let this sit up to an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Toast pieces of bread.

Spread avocado on toasted bread.  Top evenly with sardine mixture.  Top each bread slice with poached egg (see below).  Serve with lemon wedges.

Poached Eggs:

2 eggs

1 tbs. apple cider vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Break the eggs into two small bowls or ramekins.

Fill a large sauce pan with 2-3″ of water.  Add vinegar.  Bring the water to a simmer (between 160º to 180º).  Only a few bubbles should be escaping from the bottom of the water.  Stir the water gently in circles in order to create movement in the water.  Gently drop the egg into the water.

When the white turns opaque, gently remove the egg from the water with a slotted spoon or a spatula.  Season with salt and pepper and serve atop open-faced spicy sardine and avocado sandwich.

Pureed Caramelized Onion and Butter Bean Soup with Caramelized Onion and Green Bean Grilled Cheese

23 Feb

Zak is travelling to LA for business this week and is tacking on the weekend to visit friends and family.  So I’m all by my lonesome.  I was a little mopey until I realized that I could take advantage of his absence.  A lot of people cook for one, and I wanted to focus on how it doesn’t have to mean microwavable meals and lunch meat sandwiches.  I also wanted to take advantage of showing how easy it is to cook mostly from the pantry.  Finally, I wanted to cook all of the things that I refrain from making on a daily basis because I know Zak doesn’t like them as much as I do.  For example, cheesy, delicious comfort foods and sardines.

Take this dish: a can of beans, a can of green beans, some onions, and some cheese and you have a delicious, decadent soup and sandwich meal on your hands.  There was very little hands on time for this dish, and it filled my lonely house with the delicious, tantalizing smell of caramelizing onions and simmering beef stock all evening.  The soup turned out wonderfully – creamy from the butter beans with a sweet smokiness from the caramelized onions and homemade beef stock.  The sandwich had a lovely amount of sweetness from the caramelized onions and green beans, and the bread of the sandwich absorbed the flavors of the oil in which the vegetables were caramelized.  Despite being easy as pie, both components of the dish packed a lot of flavor.  The soup could be made ahead and reheated, and the vegetables could be pre-caramelized and then added to the sandwich at the last minute.

Pureed Caramelized Onion and Butter Bean Soup with Caramelized Onion and Green Bean Grilled Cheese

Pureed Caramelized Onion and Butter Bean Soup:

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. Brummel & Brown

1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with flat of knife

1 15 oz. can butter beans

2 cups homemade beef stock

1/2 tsp. garlic hot sauce

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Heat olive oil and butter in a small stock pot over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic cloves and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Sauté 20-30 minutes until onions are golden brown.  Add butter beans and stir to coat with oil and Brummel & Brown.  Add beef stock and reduce heat to low.  Simmer, covered, 1-2 hours until flavors have developed and liquid has reduced by 1/3.

Transfer to a food processor and puree by pulsing machine 20-25 times.  Add garlic hot sauce.  Taste for seasonings and adjust hot sauce, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.  Transfer back to stock pot and simmer until ready to serve.

Caramelized Onion and Green Bean Grilled Cheese:

1 tbs. olive oil

2 tbs. Brummel & Brown, divided

1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 cup canned green beans

2 slices whole wheat bread

4 oz. Swiss cheese, thinly sliced

In a 10″ cast iron skillet, heat olive oil and 1 tbs. of Brummel & Brown over medium heat.  Add onions and green beans and sauté 30-40 minutes until caramelized.  Remove vegetables from skillet, reserving oil and butter that remains.

Coat both sides of whole wheat bread with remaining tbs. of Brummel & Brown.  On one piece of bread, layer half of the cheese.  Top with caramelized vegetables.  Top with remaining half cheese.  Place other piece of bread on top.

Heat reserved oil and butter in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  When skillet is very hot, add sandwich and grill 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Cut in half diagonally and serve with soup.

Quinoa and Polenta “Pizza”

22 Feb

This was a very healthy but very flavorful alternative to take out pizza.  Feel free to play around with the toppings as you see fit.  Pictured is a caramelized mushroom and tomato version that I thought played well with the baked quinoa with adobo I used as the base.  I added some steamed broccoli florets to Zak’s at his request.  You can also use 1 cup of plain cooked quinoa, I just happen to be a spazz about using up leftovers whenever possible and thought it might punch up the flavors of the “crust.”  It was really fun to put the toppings on the pizza and was so delicious when finished.

I admittedly had some problems getting the bottom half of the quinoa-polenta mixture to stay crispy.  I broiled it for the times listed below and the bottom kept becoming loose and runny, making it somewhat difficult to flip and transfer to the plate.  I’m not sure why it happened, as the mixture seemed very well set when I placed it on the baking sheet to begin with.  For guaranteed crispness, I suggest setting the mixture overnight in the refrigerator or pan-frying, rather than broiling, the mix initially and then adding it to a 425º oven to melt the cheese and cook the toppings.  However, I posted the recipe because I think it should work to produce a full crust.  Furthermore, it was very good as is – the top half of the mixture, at least, was very crunchy and the creaminess of the bottom half didn’t take away from the taste in any way.  The edges were slightly charred, but that’s what I was going for.  Keep a close eye on it if you want to avoid this.

Quinoa and Polenta “Pizza”

Adapted from FitSugar

1 cup leftover baked quinoa with adobo

4 cups homemade chicken stock

1 cup polenta

3/4 cup 1% milk

2 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided

Non-stick cooking spray

2 medium roma tomatoes

1/2 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbs. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Bring vegetable stock to a rolling boil over medium-high heat in a small stock pot.  A little at a time, slowly whisk in polenta.  Reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 30 minutes or until polenta is tender.

Slowly whisk in milk and bring back to a gentle simmer.  In small batches, add 1/2 cup cheese, constantly whisking.  Simmer until desired consistency.

In a medium bowl, mix together polenta and leftover baked quinoa with adobo.

Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Pour in quinoa/polenta and use a large spoon or spatula to smooth.  Transfer to refrigerator and let sit at least 6-8 hours until well set.  If necessary, place in freezer for 1-2 hours until completely set.  [Note: This makes about double the quinoa-polenta base you will need.  There are plenty of ways to use it up, however, and I’ll be posting some of them over the course of this week]

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, thinly slice roma tomatoes to about 1/16″ thick.  Place on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Let sit 1-2 hours.  This will draw out some of the moisture and prevent the “pizza” from becoming overly soggy.

About an hour before serving time, heat 1 tbs. of olive oil over medium-low heat in a medium sauté pan.  Add mushrooms and season with thyme, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, 20-30 minutes until caramelized.

Meanwhile, cut set polenta into serving squares.  I cut ours into two 5″ x 5″ individual “pizzas.”  You could also cut them into smaller rounds or squares for appetizers.

Preheat broiler.

Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray and place polenta squares on baking sheet.  Spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Place in broiler and broil 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Flip and broil another 10-15 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Remove polenta squares from broiler and top with cheese, tomato slices, and mushrooms.  Broil another 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Garnish with a few pinches of fresh parsley and some crushed red pepper flakes.  These can be served as an individual main or cut up as appetizers.

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