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Archive for the ‘Dinner’ Category

If I keep waiting to share this recipe it will be full-on winter and then what is the point of talking about Fall Sage Pesto?  The problem is that there is no recipe.  I found this pesto in an Ina Garten cookbook.  But since then I’ve packed up and moved twice and now many of my recipes are somewhere between here and Ecuador … or the Runyan’s garage.  It’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll give you a pitiful attempt at my recollection of what this entailed and see where you go with it.  It was pesto so it involved herbs, nuts, olive oil and parmesan blended.  The herbs consisted largely of sage and rosemary and I’m pretty sure it used walnuts.  There.  There’s your recipe.

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But if I haven’t given you enough help to try your own pesto experiment, I figure this is a great opportunity to remind you of the BEST GNOCCHI RECIPE.  It uses sweet potatoes instead of the regular little guys and in doing so creates a lot of extra flavor without tasting overly sweet, which is often my sweet potato complaint.

Not to dissuade you, but gnocchi is one of the easiest pastas to mess up.  If you handle it too much or add just a bit too much flour it will turn totally gummy and feel like glue when it hits your stomach.  Because it’s easy to mess up, there is a lot of bad gnocchi out there.  I’m convinced that this is why more people don’t love gnocchi.  They’ve only ever been served bad stuff and now don’t care to try gnocchi again.  I was fortunate to try the most delicate and meltingly delicious puddles the first time and have thus ordered many a gnocchi hoping to find that perfection again.  This means that even though this recipe uses precise measurements, you shouldn’t.  Your goal is to get a workable dough with as little flour, handholding, and cursing (just kidding, but it is time consuming and sticky at times) as possible.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Originally from allrecipes.com
Serves 4

2 (8 ounce) sweet potatoes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until soft to the touch. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool.  (I do the quick version by pricking the potatoes and cooking them in the microwave til soft – about 10 minutes.)
Once the potatoes are cool enough to work with, remove the peels, and mash them, or press them through a ricer into a large bowl. Blend in the garlic, salt, nutmeg, and egg. Mix in the flour a little at a time until you have soft dough. Use more or less flour as needed.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. While you wait for the water, make the gnocchi. On a floured surface, roll the dough out in several long snakes, and cut into 1-inch sections. Drop the pieces into the boiling water, and allow them to cook until they float to the surface. Remove the floating pieces with a slotted spoon, and keep warm in a serving dish. Serve with butter or cream sauce.

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Great flavor.  Sometimes that is all a girl needs to say.  ‘Specially a girl who will always push the protein to the side of her plate and let it sit neglected while she smacks her lips over her bread and salad.

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But this flank steak was bold enough to take center stage on my plate and for once Nate actually had a fork fight on his hands for the leftovers.  A great balance of sweet and salty and a great method to let steak remain what it is while enhancing it in all the right ways.

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Bourbon and Brown Sugar Marinated Steak
From Fine Cooking 73, pg. 86
Serves 4

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1-1/2 to 2 lb. beef steak, preferably flank, or 1-1/2-inch-thick New York strip steaks

Prepare a medium-hot grill fire. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, bourbon, sugar, mustard, and hot sauce in a large zip-top bag. Seal and shake to combine the ingredients and dissolve the sugar. Add the steak to the bag, seal, massage to cover the steaks with marinade, and set aside for 15 to 20 min. at room temperature. (Or you can marinade for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, bringing the steak back to room temp before grilling.)

When the grill is ready, remove the steak from the marinade and shake off any excess, but don’t pat it dry. Reserve the marinade. Grill the steak until good sear marks appear, 3 to 4 min. With tongs, rotate the steak 90 degrees (to get a crosshatch of grill marks) and continue grilling until grill marks form and the edges are a little crisp, another 3 to 4 min. Flip the steak and grill the other side in the same way until the exterior is nicely seared and the steak is cooked to your liking, 10 to 12 min. total cooking time for medium rare. Let the steaks rest for about 5 min.

Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a small saucepan and boil over medium-high heat until syrupy, about 3 min. (watch carefully to prevent burning). For flank steak, slice the meat thinly across the grain. For strip steaks, slice thickly or serve in chunks. Serve with a drizzle of the sauce.

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Remember that Asian-Orange Chicken I told you about a few weeks ago, the one that was my debut into Asian cooking on this blog?  Well, it’s back again, kinda, sorta.

These Orange and Soy Glazed Chicken Thighs are the rich man’s version of orange chicken.  They are the solution to a dinner party where you want to impress but know your guests would be just as happy with some chinese takeout.  Many of the same flavors are married together in a different presentation, leaving you with all the flavor you wanted without the accompanying soy sauce packets and crumbly fortune cookies.

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Orange and Soy Glazed Chicken Thighs
Originally from finecooking.com, Fine Cooking 103, p. 89
Serves 4

Vegetable oil for the broiler pan
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 small to medium shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
3 medium scallions (green parts only), cut into 3-inch lengths
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbs. mirin * I subbed this with half honey, half corn syrup since it’s not an ingredient I need often
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2 Tbs. fresh orange juice
1-1/4 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Position a rack about 7 inches from the broiler and heat the oven to 450°F. Line the bottom of a broiler pan with foil and lightly oil the top of the pan.

Season the chicken all over with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Arrange the shiitake in 8 pairs, gill sides up, on the prepared broiler pan and season with salt and pepper. Arrange 2 or 3 scallion pieces on top of each mushroom pair, then put a chicken thigh, skin side up, on top. Press with your hand to flatten. Roast until the edges of the chicken begin to brown and an instantread thermometer inserted in a thick part of the biggest thigh registers 165°F, about 20 minutes. Turn the broiler to high and broil until the skin is crisp and deeply browned, 5 to 6 minutes, rotating the pan once for even browning.

While the chicken is cooking, combine the soy sauce, sugar, mirin, and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

In a small bowl, stir the orange juice and cornstarch; add this mixture to the saucepan. Return to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and glossy, about 1 minute.

To serve, transfer the chicken, scallions, and mushrooms to dinner plates, drizzle with the sauce, and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

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Oh man am I looking for easy these days.  Easy and about oh, zero ingredients since we are packing up our entire house and that means clearing the fridge of its contents.  This recipe uses only ingredients that I almost always have on hand.

It’s totally simple.  I think I was drawn to try it mostly because it reminds me of a dish I used to rder every once in a while from Coco Pazzo Cafe back when I worked a block away from it.  A chicken paillard served with a fresh helping of greens, goat cheese and grapes.  No carb-heavy side offered.  No need to sauce it up.  Just simple, fresh food.

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Lemon and Oregano-Rubbed Chicken Paillards
From cookinglight.com
Serves 4

4  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
5  teaspoons  grated lemon rind
1  tablespoon  olive oil
1 1/2  teaspoons  dried oregano
3/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/4  teaspoon  water
2  garlic cloves, minced
Cooking spray
4  lemon wedges
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley

Prepare grill.

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Combine lemon rind and next 6 ingredients (through minced garlic); rub evenly over both sides of chicken. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill 3 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Remove from heat. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge evenly over each chicken breast half. Sprinkle parsley evenly over chicken.

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We like to get our fajita on regularly in this household.  Many times that means cleaning out the leftover meat in the fridge and combining it with a homemade fajita spice mix.  Fajita spices can save almost any bland or tough meat when you let the flavors marry in a skillet for a bit and you’re left with tasty, tasty fare whether you liked the original meat or not.

Sometimes fajitas have nothing to do with salvaging leftovers and everything to do with the fact that we just love almost anything rolled up in a tortilla.  These fajitas are no exception because not only did we love them, but they prove my point that almost anything rolled in a tortilla is delicious.  Sweet potatoes for example.  Sweet potatoes that I normally eat dutifully because they are good for me but not because I like that oddly sweet starch.  But these fajitas can make me look forward to sweet potatoes.  And poblanos and chorizo because everything in this roll-up is delicious.

Chorizo, Poblano, and Yam Fajitas with Lime-Marinated Red Onions
Adapted from epicurious.com
Yield: 4 servings

1.5 cups paper-thin slices red onions
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cups 1/2-inch-thick sticks peeled yam (red-skinned sweet potato)
12 to 14 ounces hard chorizo or andouille sausage
2 fresh poblano chiles,* halved, seeded, cut into thin strips
8 7- to 8-inch-diameter flour tortillas
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Toss onions and generous sprinkle of salt in medium bowl. Mix in lime juice. Set aside to marinate, tossing occasionally.

Meanwhile, place yam in microwave-safe bowl. Add splash of water. Cover; cook on high until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Sauté chorizo in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Transfer chorizo to bowl or plate.  Add chiles to skillet along with a splash of evoo if chorizo has not created much oil. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Drain yam; transfer to skillet. Add chorizo and toss 1 minute to rewarm filling.

Cook 1 tortilla at a time directly over gas flame or in skillet until heated, 10 to 15 seconds per side.

Arrange tortillas on work surface. Spoon filling in strip down center of each. Top with cheese, onions, and sprinkle of lime marinade. Fold in sides of tortillas.

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Roasted Potato Medley with Sage

Here is the kind of thing I throw together all the time.  Say you are making that Pan-Roasted Chicken with Olives and Lemon.  The oven is already set at 425 and you’ve got a whole rack open.  You’ve also got some great fresh herbs on hand from your main dish.  In this case, that would be thyme and sage.  You’ve got just the opportunity to make a side dish full of comfort and complementary flavors.

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The only thing you really need to keep on hand is potatoes and some kind of onion to make this work.  And in my house, there are at least a few of potatoes and an onion lurking in my cupboard.  I got lucky for this demonstration with a more gourmet variety on hand, but I’m never above using a basic yellow potato alone with this methodology.

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Mmh.  I can just see my favorite part sitting there waiting to be eaten.  See some of those black, caramelized onion pieces?  I just love those crunchy bites.  Some might call them burnt but I call them perfect.  In fact, it’s the only way you’ll ever get me to say “Mmh good” to an onion.

Roasted Potato Medley with Sage

Potatoes of any variety.  In this case I used a combination of russet, purple, and sweet potatoes
Onion of any variety.  I prefer a white onion or shallots
Fresh herbs.  Thyme and sage today
Olive oil
Salt
Chile powder
Cayenne pepper
Pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.  You don’t need to peel them as many of the vitamins are found in that outer layer and the skin will be nicely tender by the time these are ready.  Cut onion into several large sections.   Place into a bowl.  Add whole sage leaves and a several sprigs of thyme.  (In terms of proportion, you can’t really go wrong.  You know what you like to eat and you go with it.)

Add olive oil and toss to coat.  Next add your spices and salt.  (In this case proportion is important as you don’t want it overly salty or spicy.  But still, just eyeball it and use moderation).  Toss to coat again.  Spread into a single layer on a baking sheet and shove it into the oven with your chicken.  (If you are making this with another recipe, don’t worry about the oven temp.  I like higher temps because you get those wonderful onion bits I was telling you about and a nice crisp edge on the potato, but most any temp 350 or above will work.  It will just alter the amount of cooking time needed.)  In this case, I would guess my potatoes will take about 25 minutes to cook, give or take.  In this case I would put them in before the chicken goes in.  Either way, take the potatoes out halfway and flip for more crispy edges.  And they’ll be done when they are fork tender.

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It’s 55 degrees and windy here.  What better day to start bringing in the Fall flavors and cooking techniques?  It’s time to celebrate the use of your oven for the warmth it provides and start roasting everything!  Roasting can be a perfect option for the at-home mom.  It often takes only simple prep work up front to get the dish in the oven.  What it does need, though, is considerable time to sit there and grow warm and tender.  When you get home from work at 6:20 as I used to, it feels cumbersome to have to wait 50 minutes to eat.  But these days I can start the roasting at 5:30 and have dinner on the table right when the hunger pains start.

This chicken is a Mediterranean-influenced, perfect cross-over between Summer and Fall with it’s citrus flare and use of thyme and sage.  The best bites are those that combine a little of caramelized chicken with a hint of shallot and a nice bite of briney olive.

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Pan-Roasted Chicken with Olives and Lemon
From Fine Cooking 103, p. 21
Serves four

One 4-lb. chicken, cut into eight pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium lemon
1 Tbs. unsalted butter; more as needed
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
3/4 cup jarred brined olives, rinsed, pitted, and halved
8 fresh sage leaves
6 small fresh or 3 dried bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 tsp. chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.

Season the chicken generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

Cut the ends off the lemon, stand it on one end, and slice off the peel and the bitter white pith to expose the flesh. Cut the lemon segments from the membranes, letting them drop into a small bowl. Cut each segment crosswise into 4 pieces.

Heat the butter and the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, cook the chicken skin side down until golden-brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Pour off all but 2 Tbs. of the fat. Add the shallots, olives, sage, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and lemon segments, and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan skin side up and transfer to the oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with the chopped thyme.

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