Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fresh Tomato Pasta

This is usually something I make in the summer when I have lots of yummy tomatoes in hand. Right now it's cold and it's rainy and I miss summer! I miss it so much I've been cooking some "summery" dishes because I honestly am sick of all the winter food. No more roasts and casseroles....I'm over it! Again this is going to be one of those recipes with out exact measurements. It's actually something I tend to cook when it's just me so I'm usually just grabbing a handful of everything. Just enough to feed me! This is truly one of my favorite things to eat. It's pretty good for you yet unbelievably decadent and comforting to eat. Something about the warm, fresh tasting sauce mingled with the cold, creamy cheese is just too good.

Pasta - angel hair nests are my favorite for fast cook time, but a spaghetti or like shape and size will work well
Sweet onion - for just me I use about a quarter of an onion, chopped into about a 1/4 inch dice
Eggplant - 1 small Italian eggplant per person or approximately 1/2 cup, chopped into 1/4 inch dice (i remove the skin too. It makes for a better end texture)
Tomatoes - In the summer 1 or 2 regular garden tomatoes, this time a handful of cherry tomatoes (the same gourmet blend as I used for roasted vegs)
Garlic - one small clove per person, minced
Olive oil - approximately 4 tablespoons per person, it should coat your saute pan and have a tiny bit of depth in the pan

Boil salted water for pasta and then cook pasta when water boils. Go ahead and get this part started first so the pasta is cooking at the same time as the sauce. Both will cook very quickly

1. heat olive oil over med heat
2. add onion to pan and let begin to soften
3. once onion has gotten soft and turned a bit golden, add eggplant
4. once eggplant has cooked down a bit and softened and turned golden, add in garlic
5. let garlic become fragrant and then add tomatoes
6. season with salt and pepper
7. you don't need to cook very long, you just want to tomatoes to heat through and burst so they release their juices a bit
8. top the cooked pasta with the sauce and add fresh basil and mozzarella cheese (Buffalo Mozzarella is superior in this dish, but regular fresh, cow does the trick)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lemony Pork Tenderloin

I think I would consider this a well balanced meal. You've got your protein (pork), a starch (roasted potatoes), and a green veggie (spinach) even though I did make it creamy. This lemony pork tenderloin is super tasty and ridiculously fast to cook. The potatoes are my standby roasted recipe which I make all the time. They just can't be beat. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I think this is my favorite way to have taters. The spinach was inspired by a delicious creamed spinach my friend, Anne, brought over a couple weeks ago. Hers was so good! Mine is a quick and simple version of the classic dish and I was very happy with how it came out.

First things first get those potatoes in the oven.
Preheat to 425 degrees
I like the baby potatoes for this because (of course) they are fast and easy!
Rinse the potatoes and then either halve (for the little guys) or quarter length wise (for the bigger ones)
Put all your potatoes in a baking dish (a 8x8 if you're cooking for two, probably a 9x13 if you are cooking the whole bag of potatoes)
drizzle them with olive oil (enough to coat them all lightly)
sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat
now pour a little chicken broth in the bottom of the pan, maybe a 1/4 cup
if you are feeling indulgent you can go ahead and dice up a tablespoon or two of cold butter and place it evenly across the potatoes
Roast until crispy and brown, stirring a couple times during cooking, about 30-40 minutes

The Spinach
1 bag baby spinach, washed and dried (in a salad spinner if you have one)
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon four
1 cup milk (i was a good girl and used 2%, but by all means feel free to live it up with whole or 1/2 and 1/2)

Take washed spinach and set in pan over med heat (it is good if the spinach is still a little wet because this will help it steam)
Let the spinach wilt down and then remove it from the pan and set aside while you cook the shallots
heat tablespoon of butter in same pan and saute shallots. I let mine get browned, but that is a personal preference. You can just sweat them out a bit if you like.
add T of flour and move it around in the pan so it mixes in with the shallot and let it cook for about a minute
slowly whisk in the cup of milk and let the mixture bubble and thicken
now add back in the spinach and season with salt and pepper. I also like a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Lemon Pork

1 pork tenderloin, take a sharp knife and make bias slices about 1/2 inch thick, pound slices to about 1/4 inch (you'll have even, thin rounds)
olive oil and a sliver of butter
lemon sliced into rounds (about 1/4 inch)
salt and pepper

In a skillet over med high heat olive oil and sliver of butter
salt and pepper pork paillards
brown pork in skillet
once you turn pork over set lemon slices down in pan in between the pork slices
as the pork finishes cooking, the lemon with brown and release its juices.

That's it! Hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Roasted Veggies with Mozzarella

Oh wow! This was so simple and good. I made it for lunch the other day, but you could easily serve this for dinner along side a roast of pork or chicken. I got some nice little Italian eggplants from Whole Foods that were the perfect size, but you can cut down a normal sized eggplant too. I used my handy little Japanese mandolin on the zucchini and eggplant, but if you are good with a knife and have a sharp blade that will also work. I'm not going to give exact measurements of the veggies here. Just think about how much you want and buy and slice accordingly.

Small (think yellow squash sized) Italian Eggplants
Small Zucchinis
cherry tomatoes (I got the "gourmet/heirloom" mix)
Olive Oil
Garlic clove
Italian Herbs Blend (I use a McCormick's Grinder Italian Blend and I love it! It includes herbs, fennel seed, garlic, and red pepper flakes)
Fresh Mozzarella
Salt and pepper

In a small sauce pan heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, a few grindings of the herb blend, and the clove of garlic either grated on a microplane (i am lazy) or minced.

Slice eggplant and zucchini longways using mandolin or sharp knife and lay on baking sheet
trim asparagus and add to baking sheet
Brush vegetables with warm olive oil mixture
once you have coated the vegetables on the sheet, add the tomatoes to the remaining seasoned oil and toss around to coat
then add the seasoned tomatoes to the baking sheet
salt and pepper everything
broil the vegetables, monitoring closely to prevent burning - because everything is sliced so thinly it should cook very quickly

To serve place vegetables on a bowl or plate and add torn up pieces of cheese, drizzle with some more olive oil, and season with a little more salt and pepper.
Torn up basil would be nice too if you had it on hand, but it was awesome with out.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pot Pie

Here is a chicken pot pie I made recently. It is such an easy all in one dinner to make. In order to make this a super quick dinner I slice all the vegetables using a mandolin. I needed a vent for the crust so I used that funny little pig cookie cutter.

1 package of chicken tenderloins
half and onion, quartered and then thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup (or as many or as few as you like) frozen petite peas, rinsed with cold water
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, dethawed

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper
heat a little olive oil and a sliver of butter in a large skillet or saute pan
brown chicken and let it cook through
remove and set aside and in same skillet add a little more oil and butter and saute onion, carrot and celery
season vegetables with salt and pepper
let vegetables cook for 5-7 minutes until soft, they should cook pretty quickly depending on how think they've been sliced
add garlic towards end
*now sometimes at this point I add maybe another tablespoon of butter and let it melt in and then add flour, let it cook and then the milk and make the sauce right there in the pan
OR you can make a proper white sauce in a sauce pan by melting the 3 T of butter, adding the 3 T of flour, cooking several minutes then whisking in the milk.
Bring to a boil then turn down the heat a little and let it cook and thicken
Chop the chicken tenders so they are bite sized
Have sauce, veggies, peas and chicken (including any of the chicken juices) mixed together
test for salt and pepper
pour mixture in a baking pan (9x13 or 8x8, whatever it fits in best)
lay puff pastry sheet over the mixture like a pie crust (other crust alternatives are refrigerated biscuits, biscuit batter or cornbread batter, but you will need to adjust baking temp accordingly)
Bake until the crust is brown and mixture bubbly