Saturday, January 22, 2011

Farro with Shrimp, Parmesan, and Peas

This is an easy recipe if you do your 'mise en place' (chopping, measuring, and sorting) ahead of time. Don't let the long ingredient list or multiple steps scare you off. Just start everything at the same time and dump it all into a dutch oven along with the vegetables at the end of cooking.

If you love tucking into a bowl of pasta in this cold weather but don't want to break your New Year's resolution, I beg you to try farro. It's as easy to cook as pasta and equally as satisfying. In fact with its slight nuttiness, some may argue it's even more comforting. Trust me - I generally turn my nose up at uber healthy dishes (and have the arse to prove it) and yet I eat this like it's running away from me. But then again, I do add a cup of cheese to it...

Farro with Peas, Shrimp, and Parmesan
* I use Whole Foods frozen shrimp, unthawed. If using fresh shrimp, roasting time will be shorter.
* Ideally, you start the veggies in the large dutch oven the same time you start boiling the farro and roasting the shrimp. That way, once all ready you can just dump the shrimp and farro into the dutch oven, warm through, and serve.

1 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots
2 carrots, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup Chardonnay vermouth or other dry white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
¾ cup thawed peas

20-22 frozen shrimp peeled and deveined shrimp with tail on, unthawed
1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat each shrimp
salt and pepper, for seasoning

1 (8.8 oz) package farro, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms boiled in a large pot of water for 10 minutes or until just al dente. Drain and set aside.

1 cup (or more) shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnishing
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat leaf parsley or basil
fresh cracked pepper and additional sea salt, for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400.

Add the butter and oil to a large dutch oven and bring over medium/high heat. Let heat through for 1-2 minutes, then add the shallots, carrots, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally until tender – about 8 minutes. Add in garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Bring the heat to high and add in the white wine. Allow to boil for 4-5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add in thawed peas and stir to warm through then lower the heat to low or turn off if you still have a while to go with the rest of the steps and leave be.

Meanwhile, add the frozen shrimp to a large rimmed roasting pan (you can use aluminum foil to line it, for easier cleanup - just spray with nonstick spray.) Drizzle the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat them, then season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until the shrimp are bright pink, curled and cooked through. If using fresh shrimp you won't need as much time so keep an eye on them. Remove from the oven and set aside while you get on with the next step.

Meanwhile, add the drained farro and porcini to your vegetables in the dutch oven, putting the flame on low/medium heat. Stir well to mix, then add in the parmesan and stir again. Add in the roasted shrimp along with any leftover juices from the pan and stir again.

Finally stir in the last 3 tablespoons olive oil and chopped herbs, if desired. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper to suit your needs. Serve by the bowl full.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nigella's Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

I made this for Christmas and while it was absolutely delicious I feel it got lost in the shuffle with all the other sweets flying around. Next year I'll make it for Halloween because I can't help but feel that that's the holiday it was meant for. After all if this dessert were a Halloween costume, it would be the 'naughty nurse' outfit favored by college girls and cougars.

And while Nigella says the flavors might be too much for children, I disagree. It's basically a super rich chocolate sheet cake with a little something extra you can't quite put your finger on. Not really spicy like you would expect, just unapologetically chocolate-y with a pleasantly damp, squishy crumb.

A word of warning - the cake isn't much to look at after it's baked but don't fret. The pourable icing gives it an instant makeover (not accurately depicted by the above image, taken by me via iPhone while a bit tipsy at a holiday party...and on a paper plate no less.)

Nigella's Chocolate Gingerbread Cake
From Feast by Nigella Lawson
Makes about large 12 slabs, but smaller servings are nice too as its so rich.

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 cup + 2 T dark brown sugar
2 T granulated sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle's Golden Syrup) or light corn syrup
3/4 c. molasses
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 T warm water
2 eggs
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened powdered cocoa
1 cup (or more) semi sweet chocolate chips

For Frosting:
2 c. powdered sugar
2 T butter
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. ginger ale (I used Dr. Pepper as it's what I had on hand)

Preheat oven to 325. Line a baking pan (10X13 pyrex) with parchment paper (so that you can lift it out later.)

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter with the sugars, syrup, molasses, cloves, cinnamon and ginger.

In a separate cup or bowl, dissolve baking soda in warm water.

Take the saucepan off heat and add eggs, milk and soda/water mixture. Stir in flour and cocoa, reserving 2 T or so of the flour.

Toss the chocolate chips in the reserved flour, then fold in floured chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the parchment lined pan and bake about 50-55 min until risen and firm. The middle should still be a little damp under the set top, and will sink a little. Let cool in the pan.

While the cake is cooling, melt the butter, cocoa and ginger ale for the frosting in a small heavy based saucepan. Whisk in the powdered sugar and remove from the heat.

To frost, either remove the cake from the pan, fold down the paper, and pour frosting evenly over the cake (or you can just leave it in the pan and pour over there, removing it to cut up later.) Let frosting set for a few hours or overnight then cut into large slabs.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Gorgeously Green Tomatillo Cream Sauce for Beef, Chicken or your Chip Bowl

I made this up a few years ago to serve with Filet Mignon on Christmas Eve because I needed a backup for my mushroom mascarpone sauce (one of my nephews detests mushrooms.) I was panicked looking around my sister's pantry for something to make a sauce out of when I came across a huge can of tomatillos. I pretended I hadn't seen the expiration date (the tomatillos were as old as Jesus) and went with it.

The weird thing is this sauce is delicious served warm as an accompaniment to grilled or roasted meat as well as cold, straight from the fridge, as a dip for tortillas chips. But no matter how you prefer to eat it, it tastes even better when made ahead and chilled for a few hours (or even overnight.)

Pretty. Versatile. Improves with age. If this recipe were a woman I'd have to kill her.

Tomatillo Cream Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
salt and pepper, for seasoning
1 (28 oz) can tomatillos, well drained
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1/2 cup sour cream
2 heaping tablespoons chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Add the olive oil or butter to a medium heavy bottomed dutch oven and put over medium heat. Let heat through for 1-2 minutes until warm and add the chopped onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes until softened. Add in the tomatillos and cook them in the onions, stirring occasionally for 12-15 minutes until the 1 or 2 of the tomatillos 'bursts' releasing its seeds into the pan OR until some of the onions begin to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan. You don't want them to start burning but some good browned bits are lovely. Add in the coriander, garlic powder, and white wine or vermouth and bring to a boil over high heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture, being sure to scrape up any sticky or browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let boil away stirring occasionally until the majority of the wine has evaporated and the mixture is beginning to thicken - about 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes before adding to your blender to puree. Blend until the tomatillos and onions are all broken down, then add the sour cream, herbs and salt and blend again.

Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper, make any adjustments, blend again and serve. Sauce can made ahead and stored up to 3 days in the fridge in a tightly sealed container. Either serve cold if using for dip or reheat as a sauce over a low flame on the stove.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Three Cheese, Sausage and Onion Calzones

This would be perfect for a low key dinner party along with a salad and some fun antipasto to go alongside. When it's just the two of us, we eat what we can for dinner and snack on the rest from the fridge throughout the week. What I love about this recipe, or any calzone for that matter, is how flexible it is. For instance Kris cannot get enough cheese - it actually freaks me out sometimes - so I divide the stuffing mixture in half before assembling the calzones and add another cup of mozzarella or whatever I have on hand to his. (I also skip adding the arugula to his as well as he doesn't like too much veg in his.)

As for mine - I load it up with veggies. Doing so makes me feel better about being too lazy to make a salad to accompany dinner;)

Three Cheese, Sausage and Onion Calzones
Serves 6-8 as a main course.

For crust, 1 recipe Pioneer Woman's Pizza Dough, as follows:
1 teaspoon or 1/2 packet active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling bowl
Extra flour for rolling out the dough

1. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water.
2. Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
3. With an electric mixer on low speed, drizzle in the olive oil until just incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, gently stir in the yeast/water mixture.
5. And drizzle it into the flour/oil mixture. Mix until the dough forms a ball. (You can also mix by hand until it comes together.)
6. Drizzle a little olive oil into a clean bowl and turn the dough over in it to coat it in the oil.
7. Cover the bowl with a moist kitchen towel (I used paper towels) and set in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. After the dough has risen, divide the dough in half and place each half in a large ziploc bag and store in the fridge for up to 3 days (it freezes well too) or proceed to the next step if making right away.
8. Line two medium, rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil, then parchment paper. Spray the parchment with nonstick spray and set aside.
9. Preheat the oven to 450.

Calzone Filling:
I tablespoon olive oil
I large sweet or Spanish onion, chopped
Pinch salt
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
20 oz (1.25lbs) chicken or turkey sausage, removed from casings
Pinch salt and fresh cracked pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Good pinch red pepper flakes (or 2)
Good pinch grated nutmeg
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella (double it if you're a cheese freak)
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling over finished calzones
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1-2 cup arugula leaves (about a cup per calzone), optional
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with a generous splash of whole milk)

Add the olive oil to a large dutch oven and bring over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a good pinch of kosher or sea salt, and saute 6-8 minutes stirring occasionally until softened. Add in the bell pepper and cook another 5 minutes or so, until softened. Add in the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you do. Season with another pinch of kosher or sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper then add in the garlic and stir. Continue cooking, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the red pepper, nutmeg, cheeses, and salt. Set aside to cool (you don't want the mixture to be too hot when you fill your calzones or you'll end up with a gooey mess) while you roll out the dough.

Flour a cutting board or your counter well then take one of the halves of dough and add some flour to it (and your hands) so you can pat it into a submissive ball. Once you can handle it (this may take a couple additions of flour), plop it onto your floured working surface and flour your rolling pin to begin rolling. Roll out the dough, flipping over now and then to ensure it's not sticking (as well as the pin and board again, if necessary) until it's about 14x14 inches wide, trying to keep it as circular as possible (or at least oval.)

Add half of the filling over one half of the dough, spreading it evenly while leaving a good inch in the clear around the edge. Spread the arugula leaves, if adding, on top of the sausage mixture then fold the other half of the crust over the filling (you should have somewhat of a half moon shaped calzone when finished.) Now start at one end of the calzone and use your fingers to quickly and firmly roll and seal the edge from end to end. Think to yourself 'roll, pinch', 'roll, pinch' as you do. Don't be afraid of the dough - you want a good firm seal so the filling doesn't leak out.

Use your widest spatula to carefully transfer each calzone to a parchment lined baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to brush them with egg wash then sprinkle over parmesan or sea salt. Put in the oven on separate racks and bake at 450 for 12 minutes then swap their positions and bake for another 8 or so minutes, JUST until beginning to turn golden on top and around the edges.

Remove and let set up for 8 minutes before slicing and serving with warm marinara on the side.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dulce De Leche Bars...Because New Year's resolutions were meant to be broken.

Dulce De Leche Bars
From Southern Living

3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup uncooked regular oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 (2.07-oz.) chocolate-coated caramel-peanut nougat bars (Snickers), chopped
1 (14-oz.) can dulce de leche*

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well. Combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, stirring just until blended. Fold in chopped candy bars.

Spoon batter into a greased aluminum foil-lined 13" x 9" pan coated with cooking spray, allowing foil to extend over ends of pan. (Pan will be very full.) Spoon dollops of dulce de leche over batter; swirl slightly into batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack, and cool completely. (This may take several hours.) Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of pan. Peel foil away from sides of uncut brownies, and cut into bars.

*Find dulce de leche with other Mexican ingredients or on the baking aisle.