Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Caesar Salad

I've always been a sucker for croutons. My good friend Kristine fed me this and then taught me how to make it.

Print recipe only here

Serves 4

Romaine - 3 heads (I buy the organic ones that are three to a pack and are just the interior leaves - adjust if you but the bigger single heads)

Grate about ½ cup parmesan.

Combine in a blender:

* 1 T mayo
* juice of one lemon ( you can add more later if you want)
* 1-2 cloves garlic (I use a garlic press first, pressing it into the
* blender, If you don't have a press just chop it up a bunch first)
* 2 t Worcestershire sauce
* 2 t grey poupon dijon mustard
* 4 anchovies
* several turns fresh ground pepper

Blend until smooth, scraping sides of blender as necessary.

Add slowly while blender is running:

* 1/3 cup olive oil (you can use half canola oil if you want)

Don't spin too long on the blender or it will get WAY too thick. Just
blend until all the oil is emulsified in there.

Pour over romaine, add parmesan and toss to coat.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Tortilla Soup

This recipe is largely from James Peterson’s Fish & Shellfish, one of my favorite cookbooks. He gives some credit for it to Rick Bayless’s Authentic Mexican (Bayless has authored some great cookbooks, Mexican Everyday being a favorite of mine).
Makes four first course servings.

Tortilla Soup with Crab or Chicken
Print recipe only here


* 4 ears sweet corn, or 2 cans organic whole kernals or two 10-ounce packages of frozen organic white corn
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 3 garlic cloves
* 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
* ½ t oregano
* 2 T canola oil
* ½ cup Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes
* Two 32-ounce boxes (8 cups) Imagine free-range chicken broth
* 4 marinated, grilled chicken breasts* or about a pound of lump crabmeat
* Fresh cilantro
* Juice of 2 limes
* 4-6 fresh corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
* 1-2 ripe avocados, cut into chunks

Sauté the onion, garlic, jalapeño and oregano in canola oil over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the onions soften.

Add the corn, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer, loosely covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove cover, stir and allow to cool for about an hour (you can speed this up with an ice bath).

At this point prepare the tortilla strips and avocado and grill the chicken. For tortilla strips, heat 1 T canola oil in a 10” nonstick pan and add strips, pan-frying until crispy. Drain strips on paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Once soup has cooled well, puree between half and two-thirds of the soup in a blender (you do not want to puree hot soup or you’ll end up with burns and a very messy kitchen) and strain into a clean pot. You can puree as much as you want – I like it to have a smooth base with some texture.

Bring soup to a simmer and add lime, cilantro (crabmeat, if using) and salt and pepper to taste. If serving with chicken, slice breasts and add to each bowl. Top with soup with avocado chunks and add a small tower of tortilla strips and serve immediately.

* If using chicken, plan to marinate skinless breasts for 4 hours in a mixture of lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro, thinly sliced onion and a tablespoon or so of canola oil. Grill and allow to cool before slicing into strips.

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Rice Penne Pasta with Lemon and Artichoke Hearts

About a year ago you couldn't say the word PROTEIN to me without it eliciting a negative response. Chefs were saying it, physical trainers were saying it, my doctor was talking about it, my husband was complaining that we didn't eat enough of it.

It made me realize how stubborn I am about what I like to eat, and how deep my affection (read: addiction) for carbs was.

Anyway, a year has passed and I'm pleased to report that I've loosened up a bit and made some necessary dietary changes. For the most part I try to eat about equal parts lean protein and carbs. I'm not completely reformed (and I do find it hard sometimes) but I do feel a lot more energetic and look a lot better when I reduce the amount of bread I eat and increase the amount of lean protein.

All that aside - here's a great rice pasta recipe (you could always add chicken to round it out). It's got a great kick from the chilis and the lemon. My friend Kristine tipped me off to the best choice for rice pasta - Tinkyada. It has the best texture when cooked of any I've tried.

Print recipe only here.

You will need:

* 1-2 lemons
* 1 good sized jar of artichoke hearts (people have different opinions on a proper packing: water or oil. I usually get the marinated ones and hope for the best flavor)
* 1 pkg rice pasta
* Chili flakes
* 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed a bit
* Olive oil

1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Rice pasta will cook a lot longer than regular wheat pasta.
2. Heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan. Add a pinch of chili flakes and the garlic cloves and sauté over medium heat until the garlic is nicely browned all over and the chili flakes bleed some of their color.
3. Turn off the flame and allow to cool a bit. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
4. When the pasta has just a couple of minutes left to cook, add the juice from one or two lemons (depending on how juicy they are. You want to have about ¼ cup of lemon juice in the pan. Add the artichoke hearts and put over a low-medium flame to heat through. Add salt and pepper and any fresh herbs to taste (fresh parsley is nice here).
5. Drain and rinse the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the sauce on top and stir to incorporate. Test again for seasoning and serve.

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Chicken Pesto Pasta

The first time I had pesto (circa 1985, before its rise to popularity on the American table) it had been made for my dad as a gift by an Italian colleague. Having no clue what to do with it, he heated it up in a small saucepan before tossing it on pasta. I think it might have turned brown.

Pesto is something we enjoy year-round in our house. It's easy to stockpile pine nuts (well, Trader Joe's makes it easier than many purveyors); buy the raw ones so you can roast them yourself) and parmesan and I try to keep fresh basil on hand at all times since I use it for a variety of foods.

Pesto is sort of an à la minute preparation.You don't have to leave it for the absolute last moment, but don't make pesto ahead of time. It loses it's verdant luster pretty quickly.

I'm often asked my pasta preferences. After years of experimentation, I now only buy Barilla penne and thin spaghetti. You really can't go wrong there.

Makes enough for about 12-16 oz pasta, serving four
Print recipe only here.

Morning Prep:
1. Marinate a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in olive oil, garlic, lemon or whatever else you like in there.

Evening Prep:
1. Preheat Grill and oven or toaster oven to 350.

2. Boil water for pasta, adding a spoonful of kosher salt to the water. A cooking school teacher once told me that pasta cooking water should be as salty as the sea. That seemed extreme, but I do remember each time I cook pasta.

3. Roast a scant ¼ cup pine nuts in the oven or toaster oven for about 1 minute or until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

4. While the water is heating, trim haricots (top and tail). Fill a medium sized bowl with ice and water.

3. Grill chicken breasts.

4. When the pasta water comes to a boil, throw haricots in and blanche - no more than a minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and toss in the bowl of ice water. (Honestly, I usually just put the beans in a strainer and run cold water over them.)

5. Get chicken off the grill and allow to cool slightly.

6. Put pasta in boiling water and prepare pesto:

In a cuisinart:

* 2 oz fresh basil
* pine nuts, cooled
* 1-2 cloves garlic (pressed through the Susi)
* 1/2 t kosher salt
* 1/3 cup grated parmesan (I use Grana Padano)

Pulse cuisinart until throroughly blended, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary.

With motor running, add through the tube:

* ¼ cup good olive oil

7. Slice chicken
8. Drain pasta and put in a serving bowl. Add chicken, haricots vert and the pesto and toss to coat.

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