Archive for ‘Lunch & Brunch’

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
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
May 20, 2012

Black Beans with Garlic, Cumin and Cilantro

by cillefish

I love black beans, but mainly when I cook them, since sometimes other people don’t cook them well enough and they annoy my stomach, and horseradishsauce tells me if they’re cooked incorrectly on too low a heat, the toxin levels in them go nuts and they make you sick. Wikipedia agrees.

So, this recipe requires you to cook the shit out of these so they will be delicious and gentler on your tummy. Adapted (and doubled) from this recipe. We made these for Mother’s Day along with gouda-red-onion quesadillas and spicy orange salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 16-ounce cans black beans
  • 3 1/2 to 4 large garlic cloves, crushed thoroughly and minced, or pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 generous teaspoons ground cumin (I like cumin)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup tomato juice or water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Method:

  • Put the beans from the can in a medium saucepan, with about 2 c of their beanwater, plus tomato juice if using. Bring to a boil, stirring about every 4 min to scrape the bottom.
  • Continue to keep beans at a low boil for 1 hours. Keep adding water as necessary.
  • Separately, fry the cumin and garlic in the oil over med-low in a pan until fragrant. Add into the beans.
  • Continue up to 3 hours at the low boil, adding water as necessary, until the beans get to be the mash-y texture of refried beans or slightly softer.
  • Remove from heat, stir in the cilantro and salt, top with extra cheese from the Quesadillas, and serve.