Sunday, October 30, 2011

Black Beans with Garlic, Cumin & Cilantro

Black beans with garlic, cumin, and cilantro
Black Beans with Garlic, Cumin & Cilantro
When it comes to at least two different categories of nourishment – protein and fiber – few foods have as solid a nutritional profile as black beans.  They contain a mix of healthy carbohydrates, plenty of dietary fiber in addition to a good dose of protein.  They are very low in fat as well and contain no saturated fat.  Lastly, they contain loads of flavonoids, felt by many to have an anti-oxidant effect.

This particular recipe is so very simple, can be made in less than 15 minutes – and tastes amazing – actually quite addicting.  Try it tonight – and everyone will thank you.

Rinse one 16 to 19 ounce can of whole black beans and drain. In a nonstick skillet, heat 2 Tb olive oil and add 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 tsp. ground cumin over low-medium heat until the fragrance of cumin and garlic waft up. Do not let garlic brown, or it will be bitter.  Add drained black beans, 1/3 C tomato juice (or water) and ¾ tsp. salt and cook, stirring, until beans are heated through.  Stir in 2 Tb chopped fresh cilantro.  Serve and sit back and take the compliments!
Black beans served with chicken and spinach enchiladas (see previous post)

Chicken & Spinach Enchilada with Salsa Verde

Chicken and Spinach Enchiladas...with cute doggie Humphrey supervising in the background!
Chicken & Spinach Enchilada with Salsa Verde
I first made this recipe about 20 years ago as a sneaky way to get spinach into my kids AND husband.  The sneak approach worked beautifully – so much so that they would beg for the enchiladas and request to eat the filling alone!  Since that time, I have modified it quite a bit to decrease the calories and fat – but it is still fantastic.

I love the tangy flavor of salsa verde. The green color comes from the use of tomatillos.  The addition of lime juice & jalapeno pepper create the zesty flavors. Tomatillos are in most grocery stores – small green tomatoes with thin inedible paper-like husk formed by the calyx.  As the fruit, (yes, tomatoes are fruits),  grows and expands, it breaks this husk.  A tomatillo at peak should be bright green & firm and the husk broken.  It is easy to pull the husk off – toss it – the remaining tomatillo will likely have a sappy sticky coating that is easily removed with water (see pic).
Husking the tomatillos
Remove the husks of 1 lb of tomatillos – put into a pot, cover with water and boil 10 minutes. Cut open 1-2 jalapenos removing the stems, ribs and seeds.  Be very careful – work in a well ventilated area, wear gloves and do not touch anything else, especially your face, until you have thoroughly washed your hands. Using a food processor- process 4 cloves garlic, then add jalapenos, 1 coarsely chopped onion and cooked tomatillos.  Pulse several times to mince.  Put into a bowl, add salt & pepper, ½ Tb sugar, 1-2 chopped red tomatoes & ½ C chopped fresh cilantro.  Stir and set aside. You have now made tomatillo salsa (see pic). Congrats!
Tomatilla salsa

Grate ¾ lb cheddar cheese and ¾ lb Monterey jack cheese.  I use light versions when they are available.  Mix and add ¼ C grated Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Take 2 cooked & boned chicken breasts – put into food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Put into a bowl. Alternatively you could thoroughly shred the chicken but it makes it harder to hide the spinach! Take 2-3 bunches of cleaned spinach, wash, and cooked – and squeeze dry in paper towels – Pulse in processor and add to chicken. (alternatively could use frozen and thawed chopped spinach – still needs to be squeezed dry) Add spinach to chicken. Add 2 C light sour cream, 1 bunch chopped green onions, 1 C of the tomatillo salsa and 2 C of the cheese mixture. This is the filling for your enchiladas (see pic).
Enchilada filling with chicken and spinach
You can use corn or flour tortilla – white or whole wheat.  If you choose corn – you will need to fry it lightly in corn oil to soften the tortilla before assembly.  You will need about 12 medium tortillas.

Assembly: Put about 1 C salsa in the bottom of a 10 x 12 x 2” baking dish- spread to cover the bottom. Place about 6 Tb of the meat mixture into a tortilla. Carefully roll and place seam side down into dish.  Continue until you have filled all 12 tortillas.  Pour remaining salsa over the top and top with remaining cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 min – or lightly browned on top.
Filling the tortilla
I love serving this with Black Beans (see blog for Black Beans with Garlic, Cumin & Cilantro) and a green salad.  A Beer or Margarita would be a great addition as well.  

-- Larue

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Curried Chicken Salad

Curried chicken salad....enjoy with a nice chardonnay
 Curried Chicken Salad
If you have leftover chicken or just purchased too much rotisserie chicken – this is the perfect use!  Or, if the craving hits and no cooked chicken is in sight, just buy a couple plump chicken breasts and quickly cook it up for use….no need to season, there is plenty in the rest of the salad.

I love serving this mid-week – so simple to make, easy to pull it together in under an hour…add some vegetables to the plate (we had broccoli tonight as I was craving green!). Perhaps serve with some bread – or naan to complement the curry.

To serve 6, start with about 1 ½ lb chicken – I like a mix of white and dark meat.  Tonight I simply used rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and removed the skin and bones.  Chop the chicken into ½ inch pieces.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/3 C mayonnaise, ½ C plain yogurt, 5 tsp curry powder, 1 ½ Tb fresh lime juice, 1 tsp honey, 1/2 tsp salt, ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper and optional ½ tsp ground ginger.  Add chicken, 1 medium red onion, chopped (1 C), 1 firm mango (3/4 lb) that is peeled, pitted, and chopped, 1 C halved red seedless grapes, ½ C coarsely chopped salted roasted cashews. Stir gently to combine.

This can definitely be done ahead of time – even stored overnight. Great picnic fare or for a book club. Possible substitutions: cranberries instead of mango, pecans or toasted almonds instead of cashews.

This would be best with a white wine, especially a Chardonnay or Gewurztraminer. Bon Appetit!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Susan's Simple Spicy Pecans

Susan's Spicy Pecans!

Susan’s Simple Spicy Pecans
If you are craving something sweet but with a kick – and throw in mucho crunch – you are craving my close friend Susan’s spicy pecans.  She makes these as Holiday gifts every year.  Lucky for me, she also makes them as a hostess gift.  This generates many dinner invitations so I can get a regular allotment of these delights. I confess we almost never share with other guests – just quickly hid them for later consumption.

The recipe is amazingly simple – and the nuts last a long time in a sealed plastic bag.  Well – their longevity is depends on whether you munch on these continuously like we do.

Mix together 2 Tb sugar, 1 ½ Tb brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp  black pepper and ½ tsp of cayenne pepper (or more if you like more zip).Take 2 C whole pecans and sauté in 1 ½ Tb butter over med-high heat until hot. Add the above dry ingredients and sprinkle over hot pecans. Let it cook, stirring, just until sugar caramelizes and nuts are coated.  Watch carefully as it can move from carmelization to burned quickly.  If it smokes, turn down the heat and take off the burner for a few seconds.

Pour out onto aluminum foil. The nonstick aluminum foil works best.  Once they cool, break into bite size pieces.  Store in closed container or sealed plastic bags.  Good any time!


Sunday, October 9, 2011

More Dinner with Friends: Halibut Ceviche

And....the last dish from our fabulous dinner with friends last weekend:

Halibut Ceviche....great with tortilla chips!
Ceviche has to be one of the simplest healthiest fish dishes to “cook”.  It is low-carb, low fat, high in protein, filled with healthy stuff, kosher, dairy & egg-free. What’s not to love? And it is easy to make – just takes the best freshest fish you can find.  I like halibut – but snapper or bass would work as well.  I think it is best to start this early in the morning on the day you plan serve it.  But, you could also make it the day before.  It will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

First step is to “cook” the fish in lime juice. In a large glass bowl, combine 1 lb. "sashimi" quality fish (halibut, snapper or bass), cut into ½” cubes with 1 medium white Vidalia onion, chopped into ¼” pieces and 2 C freshly squeezed lime juice.  HINT:  It is much easier to cut the fish fillet into these pieces if it is very firm and cold.  I usually pop it into the freezer for 5-10 min – you do not want to freeze it but it will firm the fish and make cutting it simpler.  Once in the bowl, the fish should “swim” freely in the lime juice.  Cover and refrigerate until “done”, approximately 3-4 hours.  Drain and toss lime juice.

Separately, remove the seeds and stems and finely chop 2-3 serrano or 1-2 jalopeno chilies. (Be careful – use gloves and don’t touch your face until done and washed).  Add 1 lb. ripe tomatoes chopped into ¼” pieces, (or can use ¼ C soft sun-dried tomatoes, chopped finely), ½ small jicama, peeled and chopped into ¼” pieces, 1 mango cubed, 1/3 C chopped cilantro and 2 Tb olive oil (see pic). Stir in fish, taste for seasoning, season with salt (about 1 tsp.), 3 Tb orange juice or 1 tsp. sugar.  Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately.  However, it should not be mixed with fish any greater than 3 hours in advance of serving.  If doing ahead – store fish and chopped additions separately in frig.
Mixed chilies, mango, tomato, and jicama with cilantro
Just before serving, dice 2 avocadoes and carefully add to mixture, being careful to not squash pieces. Garnish with fresh sprigs of cilantro.

I love to serve this with good quality corn chips – yellow or blue.  The combinations makes a lovely presentation and the sweet flavor of the corn chips compliments the spicy citrusy flavors of the ceviche. Yummmm!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More from Dinner with Friends: Parmesan-thyme crackers

Here is another recipe from our wonderful Dinner with Friends night last weekend.  The Parmesan-Thyme Crackers were served as an appetizer with champagne. The dough was actually made several weeks in advance and stored in my freezer.  I often keep several "logs" on hand for just such an occasion - when I am busy and focused on other more immediate needs of a meal.  I just pulled them out of the freezer the night before - presto - fabulousness!!  Enjoy.

Parmesan-Thyme crackers....excellent with fig or peach jam!
This makes a great savory appetizer.  I usually serve it with a sweet jam – often fig or homemade peach jam.  Additionally, it can be made way in advance and frozen as a log for months. Just pull it out for that last minute guest.  Hint: I love it with champagne – but it can be addicting…as can champagne!
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream ¼ lb. (1 stick) of good quality butter at room temperature for 1 minute.  With mixer on low speed, add 1 C (about 4 oz.) freshly grated good quality Parmesan cheese, 1 1/4 C all purpose flour, 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. grated black pepper and combine until mixture forms large crumbles, about 1 minute. If dough looks too dry, add 1 tsp. water. (Depends on the “moisture” of your cheese and quality of your butter) You will need to work it quite a bit to get it to pull together (like shortbread)...if still crumbly, add an additional 1 Tb melted butter or up to 3 TB water, but add one at a time and work it in before adding the next.

Put dough onto a floured board or counter, press into a ball and roll into a 9” log.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days.  (Or freeze for longer)

When ready to serve: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut the log into 3/8” thick rounds with a sharp knife and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned.  Rotate pan once during baking.  Cool and serve at room temperature.  I love the savory, buttery, nutty flavor – with a touch of sweetness from your favorite jam.  Easy, peasy!!!!!

Next post will be Halibut Ceviche!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2 courses from dinner: Corn soup and tomato terrine

What a fabulous night!  It is always wonderful to slow down, relax and spend time with good friends.  Sharing a homemade meal over a bottle (or two…or three!) of fine wines – even better. Since much of this meal could be done well in advance – I was able to join the lively table conversation.  My goal was to stretch out the availability of seasonal corn & tomatoes a bit longer, meet Pat’s request for short ribs and not spend the evening in the kitchen.  (Admittedly I did spend a good deal of time in the kitchen the day before!)

THE MENU (all homemade)
Halibut Ceviche with Tortilla chips
Parmesan-Thyme Crackers with variety of jams

Chilled Corn Soup with Toasted Almonds

Tomato Terrine

Cabernet Braised Short Ribs
Sour Cream-Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Broccolini with Burrata Cheese
Roasted Fresh Lima Beans

Lemon Tart with Strawberries

Today, I will share the recipes and methods for making the Corn Soup and the Tomato Terrine.  These are BOTH very healthy and low-cal – but absolutely require best quality fresh ingredients. Hence, they are quite seasonal…get out there and make them soon.  You will not be disappointed.  They are both vegetarian. A few more dishes later in the week!

Chilled corn soup with toasted almonds
Slice the corn off 6-8 ears of corn.  This is most easily done by placing ear on a Bundt pan while slicing so kernels fall into the pan and not all over your kitchen.  (See previous post). Put cobs in a large pot with 6-8 C water. (just to submerge the cobs)  Bring water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 min.  This will become your broth!

In another pan, melt 3 Tb butter, add 1 large Vidalia onion chopped and 2-chopped med. Shallots.  Sweat for about 10 min to soften but do not brown. Add the corn kernels, toss in mixture to coat for 1-2 minutes.  Add reserved corn broth and simmer for 20 minutes.

With slotted spoon, transfer corn and onions to a blender with 2 – 3 C of the corn cob broth. Puree until completely smooth.

Transfer to a clean container and add 1 ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.  Thin with additional cooking broth if needed.  Could also add optional 1 C of heavy cream.

Chill for at least 3 hours.  Can be made the day before or frozen. Serve with garnish of roasted chopped almonds.  (Or other nut of your choice, such as walnuts)

Sliced tomato terrine drizzled with olive oil
 This is a bit time consuming but is SO worth the effort! The presentation is spectacular AND it tastes amazing.  It can be made 2 days ahead.

Put 2 chopped carrots, 1 thinly sliced leek, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 halved shallot, 1 garlic clove, 10 parsley sprigs, 10 black peppercorns, and 1 dried bay leave into a pot with 3 C water to make a vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes – until stock yields about 1 ½ C.  Set a fine mesh strainer over a measuring cup – strain stock and discard solids.  Cover.  Keep it hot.

Peel about 8 lbs. of tomatoes of similar size and various colors, such as with a serrated peeler (there are other ways, but this is the easiest if you have one). Set a strainer over another measuring cup. Cut each peeled tomato into 4 wedges. Cut away seeds and pulp from tomato and transfer them to strainer.  Place filleted tomatoes on paper towels to drain (see pic); sprinkle with 1-2 tsp. kosher salt. Let sit for 30 minutes or longer to extract as much water from the tomatoes as possible. Pat tomatoes with more paper towels.

Filleted tomatoes on the towel
Press on seeds and pulp to extract juice to yield ½ C tomato juice. Sprinkle 3 Tb gelatin over juice – let stand 10 minutes to soften. Add to hot stock, whisk vigorously to dissolve gelatin. Stir in ¼ C chopped chives, 2 tsp. red wine vinegar, and kosher salt to taste.

Spray one 8” x 4 ½ “ loaf pans with nonstick spray.  Line it completely and smoothly with plastic wrap – allow a 3” overhang on each side.  Pour ½ C stock into pan. Chill until set, about 40 minutes.  Arrange 1 layer of tomatoes in pan, pressing down gently, then drizzle 2 Tb stock mixture over.  Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes and stock, just like making lasagne – alternating colors, pressing down with each layer. Pour remaining stock over to fill pan if needed.  Cover terrine with overhang plastic wrap. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Press gently.  Chill terrine until set – at least 6 hours.

Uncover terrine, invert onto a platter (see pic). Remove pan and plastic wrap.  Use a serrated knife and gently slice terrine to serve.  Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with chives and sprinkle of your favorite finishing salt. If you used lots of different tomato colors, it will look spectacular! 
Tomato terrine after inverting onto platter