Archive for ‘Dinner / Supper’

November 23, 2013

Fast & Elegant Gnocchi with Pesto and Warm Balsamic Kale

by cillefish

Fast, yet oh so classy. Just like me. OK, I don’t know what I mean by that; but seriously, this meal combines an old-school, judicious avoidance of overkill with a flavor combination that really pops. Toast a batch of walnuts ahead of time to up that ‘wow’ factor with a simple, fast prep time around 30min.

Feeds: 2

  • 1 14-oz package of gnocchi
  • ~ 2 Tbsp good pesto that’s largely good oil (I use Mt Olive)
  • 1 bunch young kale, de-spined and cut with kitchen scissors to 2-or-3″-square pieces (you can also use a mix of spinach and mild arugula, and omit the microwave step)
  • 1/4 tsp Italian Traditions salt-free Italian spice mix (I highly recommend this mix specifically due to the freshness and depth of flavor)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt – just ground dried garlic)
  • 1/3 c: 2 parts mirin, 1 part balsamic vinegar of Modena
  • scant 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • Parmesan Reggiano, shaved with a potato peeler, ~3 Tbsp
  • 1 1/2 twists fresh cracked black pepper per plate

Important: Toasting walnuts takes ~11 to 45 minutes, but you get better results taking the longer approach and toasting entirely on low to medium-low. The hot-and-fast approach tends to turn things from pale to burned too fast for me to save them in time, and the slower option creates a fuller flavor. I keep these on hand and do this in batches of 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnut, stirring every 3 minutes or so.

Note: the spice mix can go either onto the kale or in the sauce. The mix I use lacks the dusty, strawlike consistency of cheaper mixes, but if your mix is tougher and dryer, put it in the sauce with the honey.

Prep:

  1. If you don’t have any toasted walnuts on hand, start with this step first. Raw may be alright but will lack most of the richness and depth of flavor of toasted.
  2. Combine olive oil, garlic powder, mirin and balsamic vinegar in small saucepan on low, and let it warm up. Add honey. Let it sit and reduce by 1/2, stirring or swirling every now and then to prevent the honey from crystallizing and burning. Meanwhile; wash, spin, and scissor kale and place it in a big glass bowl.
  3. When walnuts are toasted, set aside and get water boiling for gnocchi.
  4. When gnocchi is done, sprinkle italian spice on chopped and microwave for about 1min (you want it to reduce volume just slightly and take on a brighter hue, but stay just slightly crunchy and not quite “wilted.”)
  5. Pour warm, reduced balsamic mix into kale, separate into 2 bowls, and top each with matching portion of walnuts and parm. Toss gnocchi with pesto and spoon into sides of bowls. Twist pepper on top and serve!
March 3, 2013

Frittata, Frittata, Frittata, Je T’aime

by cillefish

For the frittata-uninitiated, these are basically quiches without crusts — firm, cakelike omelets cooked slowly over low heat. My first efforts at these resulted in scrambled eggs, but a good frittata actually can be super simple and surprisingly classy for something so packed full of good things. Tips to simplify:
Frittata

  • The right hardware: A big, cured skillet is best for this recipe since the frittata turns out particularly attractive if you sit it under the broiler for a minute or two, and I don’t trust teflon or the “wrap the plastic handle in foil” method not to do nasty things in the oven.
  • Butter is better: If your skillet isn’t (or is) well cured, barely-browning some butter in the bottom of the pan right before you pour in the egg mix will help it stay loose and come out a little easier.
  • Implements that help: A big, flexible pancake spatula is also a plus here, as is one of those knives that looks like a soft-cheese knife but has very good, small serrations on the bottom for astoundingly excellent julienne-slicing.
  • Shortcut: For the faint of heart or accident-prone [me], the baking method also works: butter a deep pie dish, do whatever stovetop prep is necessary to get the veggies where you want them, and pop the whole thing, uncovered, into a 350° oven for, say, 30min.

Spinach, Red Pepper, Onion, and Feta Frittata:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved vertically and thinly sliced
  • 2 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise and sliced very thinly
  • 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed out (I up it to 15oz)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c crumbled feta
  • optional: 1 Tbsp pre-grated parmesan
  • optional: 1/4 c to 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley, or 1-2 Tbsp dried (I omit this)
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning (I used 1 heaping tsp)
  • Pepper to taste or a pinch of crushed chili pepper (the egg can handle it)
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preparation:

  1. Pop the spinach in a bowl in the microwave on half-power to start it thawing. Meanwhile, chop everything. More Frittata goodness
June 19, 2012

Summer Italian Soup with Soup-Bean Mix & Leftover “Steak”

by cillefish

Bean soup always takes a little while due to the overnight soaking (the 1- or 2-hour “quick soak in hot water method seems to curse the results somehow, so I avoid it).  However, this one’s worth it. A nice soup mix in smaller beans / peas / lentils makes it hearty but not too beany, and the carrot and tomato brighten it up. Plus, it’s got spinach in it and manages to pull that off without reminding you of grand-maman’s cabbage soup.

  • Timing: Count on an overnight soak, 8-20 min prep (depending on how snazzy you are with chopping stuff), then just under 2 hours of “sit and wait while it cooks” time.
  • Results: 10 servings. Very filling. Low calorie (roughly 200 calories per serving)

Summer Italian Soup with 16-Bean Soup Mix, Tomatoes, Carrot, Parsnip, and Leftover “Steak”

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp hot chili oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced (or chopped then smashed)
  • 4 carrots, sliced pretty thin & diced
  • 1 medium parsnip, handled just like the carrots
  • 1 container Low Sodium Vegetable Broth + 4 c water (or 8 c water and 2-4 vegetable bouillon cubes)
  • 1/4 c lentils
  • 1 (28 ounce) can or 2 1/2 c diced tomatoes (italian seasoning or plain)
  • 1 (10 ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed out and squeezed of water
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper (seems like a lot, but the beans handle it)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, or 1 1/2 loose Tbsp fresh
  • 1 c dry lentils, sorted and rinsed (optional)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 to 1/3 c Fry’s Vegan Steak Strips (or leftover cooked meatballs or other lean beefish item), thawed and chopped to 1/2″ cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Preparation:

Soak beans (1 night):

  • Sort (to remove stones / sand) beans, rinse, and then in a large bowl soak (overnight – you can also soak them in HOT water for about 2 hours but the overnight is better).

Before you turn the heat on (~10min):

  • Set the spinach out in the sun or in someplace else it can thaw (or microwave it – see note below)
  • Drain the beans. While you chop things, let them sit with the vegetable broth in their bowl.
  • Chop the carrot & parsnip and set aside; chop & smash the garlic.

Deal with the carroty stuff (~10min):

  • In a stock pot on medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until the onion starts to turn translucent on the edges; dump in the carrot and parsnip and toss around for about another 5min.
  • Add in soaked beans, vegetable broth, and water.


Cook beans (1.5 to 2 hours):

  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat when beans are ABOVE a simmer (at a “good boil” but not rolling).
  • Cook, covered, for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Add & cook other ingredients (~20min):

  • When beans are just about done, add in tomatoes, spinach, red pepper, oregano, basil, steak strips & optional lentils (if necessary, chop can tomatoes with kitchen scissors or spoon before mixing)
  • Cook 20 min more or until all bean items are done
  • Add salt, lemon, & additional red pepper to taste

Serve

Tips & Notes:

  • Thawing spinach: put in cardboard, in bowl in microwave and cook on 4% power for 2-4 minutes. Squeeze spinach in cardboard so water goes into same bowl (you can use water for part of broth water if you feel like maximizing your nutrient intake here)
  • Oregano: if you don’t do the chili oil and go easy on the pepper, you can bump this up to 2 tsp dry / up to 2 Tbsp fresh
  • Serving: Plain water crackers are awesome crumbled up in this
  • Based on this recipe
May 20, 2012

Mother’s Day Quesadillas

by cillefish

We made these for Mother’s Day along with the Spicy Orange Salad and Garlicky Black Beans. I like this recipe because it is easy, involves caramelized onions, and has lots of flavor while still being mellow enough to allow for a bolder side dish.

I’m used to Gouda being a mild, smoky, buttery cheese with a texture close to Monterey Jack’s, but for this recipe I used some “1000-day Gouda” from Trader Joe’s, and this stuff was really good — a bit more smoky and tangy, with a texture closer to good Parmesan, but still soft enough to cut easily.

You can use normal oil, but the tortillas will want to soak it up, and in this situation you may want to preheat the oven to 300 and toast the quesadillas up a bit after you make them so the outsides are a bit more crispy than floppy.

To make them all together, start the black beans, then get the onions going. Make the salad and set aside. Finish the onions and tortillas, keeping an eye on the beans. Serve it all.

Dutch Cheese, Barbecue, and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas
Recipe adapted from the <a href=”http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bbq-Onion-and-Smoked-Gouda-Quesadillas-with-Pea-Shoot-Mini-Salad-242488&#8243; target=”_blank”>Bon Appetit recipe here</a>.

Makes: about 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound yellow onions (about 2 large), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup purchased barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
  • ~6 ounces coarsely grated smoked Gouda cheese (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups loose) I used about 1 c lowfat “soft dutch” smoked cheese from Trader Joe’s, and about 1/2 c “1000 Day Gouda”
  • ~3oz Parmesan Reggiano, grated (optional)
  • 8 8-inch-diameter flour tortillas
  • Atomizer full of oil, or cooking-oil spray

Method:

  • Slice onions and put in nonstick pan with oil in skillet. Saute on med about 10min, or until very soft and brownish (some of them should be completely caramelized). If they are getting black on the edges before then, you have the heat too high. Meanwhile, grate the cheeses
  • Add BBQ sauce, water, and hot sauce. Stir until sauce coats onions. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro now for a milder flavor (or, for a stronger cilantro flavor, wait on the cilantro and add it with the cheese to the individual quesadillas).
  • Bring a large skillet or saucepan to medium heat and spray with oil. Place 1 tortilla on the skillet, top with 1/4 cheese, 1/4 onion mixture, and 1/4 cilantro (if that’s not already in the onions). Focus on 1/3 of the way in, rather than dumping it all in the middle; leave about 1/2″ around edge. Use a spatula to press down. When bottom tortilla develops dark brown toasted spots, turn over. Put on serving plate. Repeat with the other tortillas
  • As the next tortilla is done, use kitchen scissors to cut the previous one into 6. Alternatively, you can make folded-over calzone style half-quesadillas, each using 1/8 of the mix each (results in more tortilla per quesadilla).
  • Serve