Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorino

Margaux says…

This pasta salad caught my eye on “Food and Wine” because of the olives and tomatoes…I really love that combo of flavors in a pasta salad.  But what made this excellent is the mixed herb pesto that you toss it with, and the shaved pecorino that you toss in after it’s completely cooled, so that it doesn’t melt.  This dish has a ton of flavor and will be in regular rotation on our “pasta Wednesdays” in the summer!

Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorin0

adapted from Food and Wine

1 pound penne

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 garlic cloves, halved

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped thyme

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped marjoram

Salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes—halved, seeded and quartered

1/3 cup Calamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 cup coarsely grated Tuscan Pecorino cheese (3 ounces)

Freshly ground pepper

Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the penne and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large serving bowl.  Let sit to get to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, marjoram with 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Add more olive oil if you think it’s necessary…the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I felt that was a little much.  Scrape into the bowl with the pasta and season with salt, then toss together.

Then toss in the tomatoes and olives and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to develop flavor. Just before serving, add the Pecorino, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

MAKE AHEAD The pasta can be tossed up to 2 hours ahead.
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TACO TUESDAY!

March 4, 2014

Tacos - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We love tacos around here.  Really really love them.  Especially since it’s become my son’s favorite food, and, well, if you have a toddler, you know how important that is.  Since Desi turned 3.5, he went from eating everything we gave him to becoming vegetarian and not eating much of anything at all.  We’ve come a long way from there, and luckily we have a kid that has never disliked vegetables, even through the tough eating times.  But he’s still pretty picky now, and won’t eat much of what I make anymore.  So we have back-ups in our fridge for nights that he won’t eat what I make for the rest of us: veggie dogs, taco and quesadilla fixings, cooked noodles and tomato sauce…you get the idea.  Kid stuff.  In the meantime, we have tacos as a family pretty often.  Almost once a week.  And when we saw The Lego Movie, we thought “Taco Tuesday” sounded pretty awesome.  Because, you know, “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME.”

I’ve been making my own taco seasoning ever since I discovered the recipe in my Joy of Cooking that Aunt Suzy gave me back in 2001.  I never loved the super salty McCormick packets that we always used before, and was super excited in my early cooking years to discover how easy it is to make yourself.  I almost always have taco seasoning stuff on hand, and it takes less time to make the meat and/or beans part of the tacos than it takes to prepare everything else.  Now that we have a vegetarian in the family, I make meat for us and season a can of black beans in almost the same way for him, basing it on this fabulous recipe that we posted about last summer.  I also almost always make homemade guacamole, because Desi decided he only likes avocados in that form anymore (we used to just put chopped up avocados on our tacos).  I use this recipe because it keeps longer and tastes better with all the lime juice in it.  I also make pico de gallo (recipe below) instead of just plain chopped up tomatoes.  It’s better that way, and then we can eat the leftovers the next day on tortilla chips for an after-school snack.  Our other fixings are shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, taco sauce (not really needed, if you ask me…but hubby and son love the stuff), and black olives.  I know, it’s weird, but it’s what I grew up putting on my tacos, and one of the reasons Desi loves tacos so much.

We have a few other taco recipes here, because I think Aunt Suzy loves tacos, too.  Maybe not as much as Desi, though.  🙂

Chipotle Chicken Soft Tacos
Fish Tacos with Avocado Slaw and Chipotle Sour Cream
Fish Tacos with Lime Guacamole and Cabbage Slaw
Fish Tacos with Black Bean Salsa
Braised Greens and Onion Tacos

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

YES, we love tacos up here in the Northland also! A few comments:  We often do veggie tacos with seasoned beans, but Randy also makes the taco filling with Tempeh as a substitute for the meat. He breaks it up into small chunks and toasts it in a skillet with a little oil and whole cumin seeds to get it crispy. This helps it keep its shape and texture when added to the sauce with seasonings and onions. We also like diced zucchini and shredded carrot with these traditional style tacos. We often serve doctored up refried beans as a side. So Margaux . . . does your family like soft tortillas or crispy taco shells?  For us, corn is a must – no flour tortillas for these – and we go back and forth on soft or crispy!

Margaux says..

We like soft tacos…corn and flour.  I always buy both, and we all have a couple of each.  I almost never buy hard shells, mainly because I never think of it!  I’m sure Desi would love them.  I’ll have to remember next Tuesday!  🙂

Ground Beef, Chicken or Turkey for Tacos

adapted from Joy of Cooking

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 lb ground beef, turkey or chicken
1-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
Pinch of anise seeds, slightly crushed
salt to taste
1 cup tomato sauce (one small can)
minced fresh jalapenos, other fresh chili peppers, or chipotle peppers in adobo

1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, and cook, stirring often, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the meat. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, anise and salt. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until fully incorporated and fragrant.
4. Add tomato sauce and minced peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat for 10 minutes.

Pico de Gallo

Seed and chop 2-3 Roma tomatoes, 1/4 red onion, and cilantro. Seed and mince half an jalepeno. Mix all in a small bowl together, with a squeeze of lime juice.

Chicken Tikka Masala

February 27, 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Cook’s Illustrated does it again, as usual.  Well, did it in 2007 in the Sept/Oct issue, at least.  I love Indian food, and chicken tikka masala is my favorite.  But when you have two small children, going out for Indian food isn’t an option because fiery hot food isn’t gonna fly.  And my husband and I just don’t get out to dinner alone much anymore.  So the fabulous Indian restaurants that are available to us up on Devon Ave. are just gonna have to wait a few more years.  Luckily we got to frequent them enough in our pre-kid years to hold us over.  Plus, we have this weeknight version of chicken tikka masala to hold us over, too…it is really really good.

You really can make this on a weeknight.  I did, with one kid “helping” and the other snacking happily in her high chair, our usual dinner making time routine.  The sauce can even be made ahead of time, to make it even easier…but really, I say why bother because it’s easy enough to just make it that night.  The sauce is super flavorful, the chicken super tender, and served over basmati rice you have a fantastic meal!

Chicken Tikka Masala

adapted by Cook’s Illustrated

Chicken Tikka

1/2 tsp Ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp table salt
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (it really tastes best with this, but you can use lowfat if you must!)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed and minced (unless you want more heat…then leave them in and mince)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp garam masala
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. For the chicken: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger, set aside.
2. For the sauce: Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10-18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

Chicken Chili

October 13, 2013

Chicken Chili - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We have been BUSY around here.  With Desi starting school and Stella being at that age where she doesn’t sleep all the time anymore and is into EVERYTHING, I haven’t had time to do much of anything other than cook dinner and do dishes.  The rest of the (extremely dirty) house and my side projects have definitely suffered.  But fall is here, and I’m cooking new and fun things again, so I’m doing my best to make time to post about them.
Charred Veggies - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

My husband raved about this chili, and actually got really protective over the leftovers. I knew this meant that he really REALLY liked it, because usually I’m the only one in this house that eats any leftovers.  The charred veggies gives the chili a little bit of a smoky flavor…it’s very different than any chili I’ve ever made.  So I’m definitely making it again, even though that means I’ll have to make Desi his own little pot of chili because this one has meat in it AND is pretty spicy. But that’s ok…more leftovers for us.

Chicken Chili

adapted from Martha Stewart Living

10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 jalapeno (or I used a Fresno because the jalapenos didn’t look that good)

1 yellow onion, peeled and halved

4 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 3/4-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1/4 cup chili powder

salt

2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

2-14 oz. cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat broiler, with rack 3 inches from heat source.  Arrange tomatoes, jalapeno and onion, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet.  Broil until starting to char, about 5 minutes.  Pulse tomatoes and jalapeno in food processor until chunky.  Chop onion and mince garlic.

Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add oil.  Working in batches, brown chicken in a single layer, allowing to sear before stirring, 5-6 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add onion to skillet.  Cook until soft and golden, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili powder and 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Cook, stirring for one minute.  Stir in chipotles, and drain fat off chicken and add chicken to the pot.  Raise heat to high.  Add tomato-jalapeno mixture.  Cook, scraping up browned bits, until fully incorporated, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in stock; simmer for 20 minutes.  Add beans, simmer for 10 minutes.  We served topped with sour cream and tortilla chips on the side…it would also be great with shredded cheese and chopped avocados, and with corn bread on the side.

shrimp with feta

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I recently got together again with friends Ruth, Toni and Velma for an afternoon of cooking.  Ruth found this delicious and easy recipe from The Contessa and we all agreed we should try it.  I must say it was very easy to put together, but then again, there were four of us in the kitchen sharing cooking duties.  We loved the beet and fennel salad we had last time we got together so much we served it again.  The roasted shrimp dish went really well with crusty bread, a nice Pinot Grigio and a sunny July early evening on the deck!

I recommend you watch this video of Ina Garten making this dish.  It illustrates just how how easy it is and shows how to make the fresh breadcrumbs.  I think it’s hilarious that she adds way more of certain ingredients than she specifies in the recipe like the wine, olive oil, parsley and lemon zest.  I like the way she cooks by feel vs. measuring.  🙂  We’ve adapted the recipe slightly, which you could easily do as well. I will also mention it says on the Food Network site that this dish serves 4.  I think that would be 4 very hearty eaters – four of us dined very well and still there were leftovers.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons EV olive oil, divided
1 1/2 – 2 cups medium-diced fennel (2 medium bulbs)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine (unoaked)
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Pernod, Anisette or Sambuca
1/2  teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 – 1 1/4 pound (16 to 20 per pound) raw shrimp, unpeeled and deveined
5 ounces good feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 lemons, one cut into wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10 or 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute till fragrant. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod, salt and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp in one layer over the tomato-mixture in the skillet. Scatter the crumbled feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp. Serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.

Notes on ingredients:

SHRIMP: The original recipe called for peeled, deveined shrimp with tails on.  We used unpeeled, deveined and cooked with the shell on thinking that it would add more flavor.  While this makes it more challenging to eat, it insures that the shrimp will be juicy and succulent.  I thought the specified amount of shrimp was a lot and will try this in the future with just one pound of either extra-large, as called for, or large shrimp.

PERNOD: None of us has Pernod or Anisette in our liquor cabinet, and we didn’t want to spend the $30 on a bottle just for a tablespoon.  Luckily Ruth had Sambuca. We had our doubts given the sweetness of that liqueur, but it worked beautifully.

FETA:  Try to find a solid piece of feta for this dish and crumble it by hand.  Crumbled feta comes packaged with cellulose powder or other anti-caking agents which affect how it melts.  I recommend French sheep’s milk feta, if you can find it, for it’s soft texture and great melting properties.  The Greek feta recommended by Ina is also good.

BREAD CRUMBS: We used a french bread that was on the softer side for the bread crumbs.  We processed it with the crust, which didn’t break down as finely as the inside of the bread.  I liked the texture this added to the bread crumb topping.

Chicken salad with cranberries, walnuts and tarragon - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I love when things just come together.  Last week I wanted to take some summer salads to a friend and her husband who recently had a baby.  I had most of a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and thought “chicken salad”!  But then felt a little discouraged because I’ve only made very simple chicken salads in the past – I love them, but would not feel good about giving them as a gift.  So I went to Smitten Kitchen, where I go when in need of some good ideas, and was delighted to find this recipe.  My friend Jane is of Ukrainian/Georgian heritage where lots of dishes have walnuts and tarragon in them.  Shazam!  Everyone, me included, deemed it a hit!  When Margaux saw it on Pinterest, she said “Yum”, so decided to try it out with her family.  One thing that Deb of SK said is that her husband doesn’t like chicken salad, so I was wondering about Jason’s reaction.  Jane’s hubbie, Cameron, liked it a lot.  Randy already said he’s not interested in trying it, but that won’t stop me from making it again!

Margaux says . . .

I was a little worried, actually, about whether Jason would like it or not.  Sometimes he’s really picky about things like that, and will only like traditional style, especially if it has something sweet in it like craisins or grapes.  But, to my surprise, he loved it!  I think it was the brined chicken…it was very tender and delicious (see instructions below).  This salad will definitely be on heavy rotation this summer.

Ingredients

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) cooked chicken (AS used leftover rotisserie chicken, Margaux brined some chicken breasts, see below)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 celery rib, diced into small bits (1 cup) (AS used 3 medium celery ribs, Margaux used just one)
2 or more tablespoons finely chopped shallot
1 cup dried cranberries (AS would use less next time, but everone else liked this amount)
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise (AS used 1/2 cup mayo, Margaux used 3/4 cup…she likes mayo!)
3 tablespoons vinegar, tarragon, if you have it,champagne or white wine  (AS used juice from 1/2 lemon)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or herb or your choice (AS used probably 1/4 cup tarragon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Throw the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl.  Make a dressing by combining the mayo, vinegar or lemon and the salt and pepper.  Whisk to blend. Add the dressing to the bowl and stir (or use hands) to combine thoroughly.  This can be done ahead of serving.  Add the tarragon before serving and stir to combine.

Brining and poaching the chicken:

Dissolve 2 tbsp table salt in 2 cups of water in a medium bowl or gallon sized Ziplock baggie.  Add 1 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts to it and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Remove chicken, rinse and pat dry before using.  Then poach it in water for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees.

Beet and Fennel Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I learned about this salad recently when friends and I got together to cook Asparagus and Leek Quiche.  It was a perfect compliment!  I love both beets and fennel, so what’s not to like?  It’s easy to put together once the beets are cooked.  We thought you could add a little feta cheese and call it a main dish salad!

Ingredients

1 pound cooked beets, cut in small wedges

1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced plus chopped fronds for garnish

about 6 cups lettuce, torn in small pieces or use spring mix

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like chives, parsley, dill or mint (we used chives and mint)

Instructions

To cook the beets you can either roast or cook stovetop.  For stovetop, place the unpeeled, washed beetroots in water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer at a gentle boil for about 20-30 minutes for small beets and longer for larger ones. Here’s a great how-to for stovetop cooking of beets.  Remove from heat, drain and let cool slightly.   When cool enough, you can easily slip off the skin with your hands.  Let cool completely and cut into small wedges.

Make the dressing by whisking the buttermilk and mayonnaise together until emulsified.  Add the herbs and continue to whisk.  Set aside.

Wash and dry the lettuce and spread on a platter.  Place the sliced fennel bulb on top of the lettuces, then the beet wedges.  Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad.  Garnish with the fennel fronds.