Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orzo w/Roasted Beets, Toasted Walnuts and Blue Cheese (with Orange Thyme Dressing)

Getting Over the Blues

I don't know if it was a psychological block to a "moldy cheese," or the much-too pungent taste of the varieties I had tried in the past, but blue cheese is the one that has been neglected over the years by this cheese lover... until now. I don't know what came over me the other day, but I found myself in the cheese section of Trader Joe's eyeing the blues (and to be honest, actually craving it). I wanted to make something for a going away party I was attending that evening and was inspired by the leftover roasted beets that I had made for dinner the night before. The wheels started turning -the mild flavor of roasted beets would pair well with the blue cheese, toasted walnuts would add some texture, and an orange-based dressing would play perfectly to offset the potent flavor of the blue cheese.

Orzo Salad:

1 16 oz. box orzo
2 medium roasted beets*, peeled and sliced.
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
Orange thyme dressing (see below)

Cook one 16 oz. box of orzo, according to package. Rinse, drain and allow to cool. To toast walnuts, add them to a heated dry skillet and cook at medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, stirring them frequently so they don't burn. Allow to cool.

In serving dish, mix in about 1/2 cup of the dressing with the cooked orzo. Stir in 1/4 cup blue cheese and 1/4 cup toasted walnuts. Lightly fold in the sliced beets. Note: Your orzo will likely turn pink - I rinsed and dried my roasted beets, but it still turned my salad into a dish fit for Valentine's Day. Top with remaining blue cheese and walnuts. Drizzle with another 1/4 cup of the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Orange Thyme Dressing:

1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, dried and crushed
1/2 tsp fresh mint, dried and crushed
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and whisk together. Note: you might not need all of the dressing for the salad; store remaining dressing in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.

*If you don't have roasted beets on hand: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove greens and wash beets thoroughly, leaving the skins on. Dry beets and place them in small baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a knife can slide easily through the beets. Allow to cool, then peel and slice.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic and Shaved Parmesan

I love my weekly farmer's market ritual because it continues to inspire me, to push me into unknown arenas. I grew up in a traditional Indian home, and certain foods were a mystery to me until I entered the world of college. Sure, I would hear about brussel sprouts, artichokes, asparagus, etc., but I had no idea what they tasted like, let alone how to cook them. It's amazing to me to look back at what I grew up eating and see the contrast with the wide breadth of foods I now enjoy.

This dish was inspired by a trip to the cafe Lemonade in Brentwood; I still haven't eaten there, but the array of colorful dishes in the display case looked delicious!

1 lb brussel sprouts
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
balsamic vinegar
shaved parmesan
salt to taste

Boil brussel sprouts in salted water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut brussel sprouts in half. Heat oil in skillet and add garlic and brussel sprouts. Cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add crushed red pepper, 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned and tender. Transfer to bowl.

Let cool for a few minutes, then toss with 1 tbs balsamic and shaved parmesan. Serve while still warm.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Frittata Al Fresco

Dinner ready. Lounge playlist set. A perfect Friday evening.

Friday nights used to be a big going out night for me, but now I usually prefer to wind down the week with a mellow evening. I decided to call a friend I hadn't spoken to in a while, and the timing was perfect. Her kids were napping and she had some time for an undivided attention catch up session. It was a warm evening so I decided to open up a chilled bottle of white. My friend and I had our own virtual happy hour, and it was just what I needed. Our phone date ended when her boys woke up, so I turned my attention to what I would have for dinner.

I didn't want anything too complicated, but I also wanted to use up some of the vegetables hanging out in my refrigerator, begging to be eaten. My eyes roamed the shelves and found orange and yellow bell peppers, scallions, some fresh spinach, roma tomatoes, eggs, a bunch of cilantro, pepper jack cheese, and two lonely red potatoes. A frittata it would be then.

*6 eggs
*1/4 cup milk
*1/2 cup pepper jack cheese
*1 small yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*6 small red potatoes, sliced
*1 cup torn fresh spinach
*2 tablespoons sliced green onions
*1 teaspoon crushed garlic
*salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Place potatoes in the skillet, cover, and cook about 10 minutes, until tender but firm. Mix in spinach, green onions, and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes, until spinach is wilted.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk and half of the cheese. Pour into the skillet over the vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until eggs start to set. Sprinkle rest of cheese on top; transfer to broiler and cook for 3-4 minutes, until melted.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Slow Cookin' II - Chicken Adobo

I woke up this morning craving my college roommate's chicken adobo. The last time I had it was in September when I was visiting her back east. I had followed her around the kitchen with my pen and notepad in hand, writing down everything she did -even having her measure when she ordinarily wouldn't have. I have that recipe around here...somewhere. I tried to recall how she made it, but I could only remember bits and pieces. One thing I clearly knew, was that I'd be in the kitchen for a while. Today wasn't one of those Sundays. Sure, I had the craving, but I wasn't quite inspired to try my first hand at it the old fashioned way. Today was going to be a lazy Sunday, I could already tell.

I decided to look up some slow cooker recipes and tweak them a bit, like adding carrots and mushrooms. I know it's not traditional adobo, but hey, I like it. I was sure it wouldn't be the same as sauteing onions and browning the chicken, but I was hoping to get close enough to satiate my craving.

I put the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it to high, and let it go. In the meantime, I was left free to do the dishes, take out the trash, and sort through two weeks of mail. I even had time to get a little writing done and relax with a cup of tea while catching up with an old friend over the phone. Oh, yeah, and I had time to make a few paper cranes. Yes, I said paper cranes. (I'm helping a friend make some for a wedding.)

Put the following in slow cooker and cook on high for approx. 4 hours. I've come to realize that not all crockpots cook at the same level so I tried to check on doneness after about three hours, making any adjustments to salt, acidity, etc.

1 lb chicken pieces, no skin
3/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 large cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of a knife, and chopped
3-4 bay leaves, crushed
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp brown sugar
7-8 carrots, peeled and cut in large pieces
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and quartered
12 oz. package mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large onion, chopped

After several views of a youtube video, I think I finally got it down right.

Results: definitely not as good as hers, but not bad for a first try!