Monday, May 31, 2010

Motorino's Brussel Sprout & Pancetta Pizza

The blogs have been abuzz about Motorino Pizza ever since the first location in Brooklyn opened.  Victoria Day weekend I went to the Motorino's East Village location, because I just had to try this pizza for myself. In particular, I wanted to try the famous brussels sprouts and pancetta pizza. You all know by now about my love affair with brussels sprouts, but you may be thinking I'm a crazy person for wanting it on a pizza... but let me tell you that it does not disappoint and this odd combination is incredibly tasty!  We also had the Soprassata Picante pizza, which was good, but not as good as the brussels sprout.

Motorino serves traditional Neapolitan pizza.  The restaurant usually has a seasonal pizza on special (Brussels Sprouts is technically one of the seasonal pizzas as well) and of course the day we were there it was an oh-so trendy Ramp pizza (we didn't try it though).  We were lucky to get a table at 7:30 on Sunday night, but by the time we left there were at least 5 groups waiting outside. Apparently they have a killer prix-fixe lunch deal too (if only I lived in NYC to take advantage of that!)

Check out Slice's (SeriousEat's pizza blog) "How To" on the Brussels Sprouts Pizza to make your own at home!

My Garlic Potatoes and Garlic Sauce

Since I've moved to Ottawa, I've been exposed to some of the culinary delicacies that folks here like to eat after a night out at the bars (or for lunch...) One of those delicacies is the Shawarma, but it's not just this Middle Eastern sandwich that I've grown to love, it's the potatoes and garlic sauce side dish. Since I had some extra little red potatoes left from when I made the Beet & Sweet Potato Soup, I decided to try make my own shawarma potatoes.  I couldn't bear the thought of having them without the garlic sauce though, so I scoured the internet and my fridge to see if I could come up with the garlic sauce as well. I couldn't find a recipe that matched the ingredients I had available, but the result was surprisingly good though not quite the consistency of the garlic sauce you find at the shawarma shops. The potatoes were a sort of ad-lib as well. PS don't eat this before a date or before any activity when you'll be around other people!

Garlic Potatoes with Garlic Sauce

Small red potatoes
2-3 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
The following I just sprinkled liberally:
Cayenne pepper

Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are brown and crispy.

Garlic Sauce

1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tbsp. tahini
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil

Blend in a food processor on high until well mixed, blend longer to thicken.

Beet & Sweet Potato Soup

Last week, I tried to recreate a soup that my sister made for our family on Christmas Eve. It was utterly delicious and combined three excellent things into one soup: beets, sweet potatoes, and kale. The result was a hearty, filling soup.

Beet & Sweet Potato Soup

1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 beets, cubed
1 1/2 sweet potatoes, cubed
Small red potatoes (as many as you'd like), quartered
Olive Oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup vinegar (I used both white and cider vinegar)
1/2 bunch of kale
Bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste

Low-fat sour cream for garnish

  • Cook the onion and garlic in olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat, until onion is softened.
  • Add sweet potatoes, beets, and potatoes and cook for a few minutes. 
  • Add chicken/vegetable stock, vinegar, and bay leaf and simmer 30 minutes. Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add kale and cook for 3-5 minutes, until kale is slightly wilted.
  • Serve soup garnished with sour cream.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Samoa Blondies

These Samoa Blondies are heavenly. I love Samoas, but apparently here in Canada, the Girl Guides do not sell Samoas! I would actually have to argue that these blondies are even better than their inspiration. The recipe comes from a cookbook reviewed on Savory Sweet Life.  The method of melting the butter before incorporating it with the sugars makes for a caramel-like flavor.

Samoa Blondies

From The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 ¼ cup flour
1 ¼ cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 ¼ cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Method (taken from The Cookbook Chronicles):
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line and grease an 8×8” baking dish.
In a pan over high heat, heat the butter until it browns and smells nutty. (Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t burn.) Let the butter cool for a few moments, until just barely warm.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the browned butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. With a wooden spoon, mix in the egg, vanilla, and salt. Slowly mix in the flour, coconut, and chocolate chips until blended. Try not to eat too much of the batter.
Pour the batter into the greased baking dish, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes—do not overbake! The center should still be soft. Let the blondies cool before turning them out onto a cutting board and slicing into squares.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Special Ingredient: Fiddleheads!

It is not very likely that you will be able to find fiddleheads, as they are native to Maine and are only available for a short time in the spring.  BUT if you can find fiddleheads at your local farmers market (or in Ottawa at just about any grocery store), you should definitely get your hands on these funny, little green vegetables.  Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of a baby fern. They are named for their shape, which resembles the end of a fiddle.  Fiddleheads contain even more antioxidants than blueberries and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  One journalist described the taste of fiddleheads as falling into the "umami" category, and indeed they are rather unique tasting, but definitely delicious.

It is recommended to boil fiddleheads for 10 minutes, though unfortunately I read that after I had already cooked mine, so I'm just hoping that I don't get sick!

fiddleheads recipe

Fiddleheads with Lemon and Parmesan

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
Lemon juice
Parmesan Cheese
(Adjust amounts based on how many cups of fiddleheads you have)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and add the garlic. Saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then add the fiddleheads, salt and pepper. Saute for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the fiddleheads are tender but still bright green. Add lemon juice, sprinkle with Parmesan and serve.

Turkey-Spinach Gluten-Free Lasagna

Lasagna is my idea of the ultimate comfort food.  This recipe from The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook (via Serious Eats) adds spinach and ground turkey, along with brown rice noodles instead of more traditional ingredients. I was somewhat skeptical of the brown rice noodles, but I couldn't really tell the difference once they were incorporated into the lasagna. I was very happy with the way this dish turned out, lots of gooey cheese and my homemade marinara sauce meant it was extra yummy.

As a side note, the other K (Kim/Mom) asked me today if I was going gluten-free. I hadn't really considered it, but was simply testing out recipes that everyone could enjoy.  However, if gluten-free can be this delicious, I may have to seriously consider switching over :)

Turkey-Spinach Lasagna

- serves 6 -
One 1-pound package brown rice lasagna noodles (such as Tinkyada)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (can substitute ground chicken or beef)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound fresh spinach
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 recipes Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
6 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, onions, ketchup, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the turkey is fully cooked and the onions are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Set aside until ready for assembly.
4. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt, 1 tablespoon of the Italian seasoning, and a pinch of salt. Stir together well.
5. In the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish, spread 1/2 of the Marinara Sauce. Place 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce. Spread the turkey and spinach mixture even over the noodles. Pour a small amount of sauce on the top. Sprinkle with 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of 3 lasagna noodles, and spread the ricotta mixture over them; sprinkle with 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Add the final layer of 3 lasagna noodles. Pour the remaining sauce on top and allow the sauce to seep through the layers. Sprinkle on the remaining 2 cups of mozzarella cheese and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning.
6. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes more, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

Note: I made my own sauce. It is very similar to the marinara recipe included with the link above to the original recipe! Make sure to use authentic Italian tomatoes if you can when you make the sauce, they are less bitter and have such a good flavor.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles

Today I ate a second dinner. I couldn't help it after making these Peanut Sesame Noodles for my weekday lunches. Not only do soba noodles taste delicious plain, but the dressing smelled and tasted so good, so of course I couldn't help but serve myself a plate of these noodles!  The recipe comes from The Kitchn (again, clearly it is one of my favorites!)  It is really easy to make and perfect to take to lunch at work, since the whole premise of the dish is that it is served cold.  A tip: soba noodles are cooked the same way as regular pasta, so if the package is in Japanese and you don't read Japanese like me, have no fear.  Another tip: soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which is gluten-free. To make this completely gluten-free, substitute Bragg's amino acids soy sauce for regular soy sauce.

peanut sesame noodle recipe

Cold(ish) Peanut Sesame Noodles (from the Kitchn)
serves four as a main course
2 boneless, skinless chicken brea
4 teaspoons peanut or canola oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 pound spaghetti or soba noodles
1 English (seedless) cucumber
5 scallions (white and light green parts) chopped
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds (toasted white ones would be fine, too)
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter*
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, increase the heat slightly, and add the chicken breasts. Cook until golden on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside to cool.
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to the package directions. While it cooks, peel the cucumber and slice into thin strips about 4 inches long. This is much easier on a mandoline, but you can certainly do it by hand — the strips can be any thickness you like.
In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce, plus the garlic and ginger. When the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Add to the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. Add the cucumber, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Slice the cooled chicken into thin, diagonal strips and place on top of the noodles on each plate.
*If you use regular peanut butter, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar in the sauce, as non-natural peanut butter contains sugar.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Absorption Pasta

This was my first attempt at making "absorption" pasta, which basically means instead of cooking the pasta as normal in a pot of water, you cook the pasta in broth and allow the pasta to completely absorb the liquid.  It should imbue the pasta with flavor and sort of creates a natural creamy sauce.  I took a recipe from Design*Sponge that I saw on The Kitchn and changed and added ingredients. My version had green beans and Parmesan cheese instead of asparagus and feta.  For seasoning, I used garlic, lemon zest, and basil(that I grew!) Changes to the recipe are in italics...

I can't say I was thrilled with this pasta, but I think it may be that I'm not used to the absorption method.  Mine turned out a little stickier than I would have liked.  Though it tasted okay, I might change some of the ingredients if I make this again.

Absorption Pasta

Serves 4-6

3/4 lb. (350g) good-quality penne (the cooking time of my penne lists an 8-9 minute cooking time)
2 or 3 shallots, finely sliced, or half of a small yellow onion, finely diced
2-4 slices of pancetta, chopped
1 bunch asparagus or Green beans
1/4 lb. (115g) Feta cheese
Zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups (960ml) Chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 tablespoons (30ml) Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 or 3 basil leaves

If you use asparagus, prepare the asparagus: Snap off the woody ends. Cut each stalk into angled pieces roughly the length and shape of the pasta.  Keep the tips separate from the stalks once you have cut them, as you will add them to the pasta at different times later.
Prepare the pancetta: Put olive oil in a saucepan with tall sides over medium-high heat (I use a 4-quart saucepan for this amount of pasta). Once the oil has heated up, cook the pancetta to render the fat and crisp it up. Remove from the saucepan and and set it aside.
Cooking the pasta: Add the sliced shallots and the garlic to the pan and sauté until they start to soften, a minute or less. Add in the dry pasta and stir it around for one minute to coat it in the oil and shallots, toasting the pasta a little bit. Keep an eye on the shallots and garlic to make sure they aren’t burning.
Pour in 2.5 or 3 cups (600-720ml) of chicken stock and give it a good stir (the pasta should be nearly covered). Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to keep it from boiling. Cook for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the pasta is about half done, stir in the asparagus stalks. Stir more frequently for two minutes as the stock cooks away, careful not to break the pasta.  You might need another splash of stock; you don’t want the pan to dry out all the way.  When the pasta seems to be getting close to done—test frequently!—add the asparagus tips.

Cook another minute or two, stirring constantly, until al dente.   Since this dish holds the heat and the pasta keeps cooking a little once you’ve removed it from the heat, you should err on the side of less—rather than more—cooked.
You should still have some thickened broth at the bottom of the pan; as you toss the pasta to season it this will coat everything and make it silky instead of sticky.
Remove from the heat and stir in half of the pancetta and three-quarters of the lemon zest. Season to taste, but remember that you’ll be adding salty feta on top.
Serve: Top each portion with crumbled feta, pancetta, and lemon zest.
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