Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thai Chicken Curry

I’m always looking for quick and easy dishes to make for weeknight dinners, but they still have to taste great. This recipe delivered on both counts. It certainly was fast enough—it came together in minutes! From the first step of whisking together the coconut milk and Thai curry paste, my kitchen was perfumed with a familiar spicy sweet aroma. To keep this dish on the healthy side, I used "light" coconut milk and served with steamed brown rice, thanks to my handy rice cooker.

Adapted from:
Thai Chicken Curry, Bon Appétit, August 2000

1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, whisked to blend
1 ¼ teaspoons Thai curry paste
1 large red bell pepper, cut into ⅓-inch-wide strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 pound chicken tenders, cut crosswise in half
1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
⅓ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring ¼ cup coconut milk and curry paste to boil in large skillet over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Add bell pepper and onion; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in chicken, remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Cook until chicken is cooked through, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Black Bean, Spinach, and Mushroom Burritos

What a healthy and tasty treat this dish was! The filling cooks up quickly, in one large skillet, and packs a lot of flavor. I used whole wheat tortillas to assemble the burritos. This recipe maintains a mild flavor in terms of spiciness, but you can always add more heat with your favorite chile peppers or with a few dashes of Tabasco mixed in with the enchilada sauce.

Adapted from:
Black Bean, Spinach, and Mushroom Burritos, Gourmet Magazine

1 onion, finely chopped
½ pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch spinach (about 1 pound), coarse stems discarded, washed well and spun dry
2 garlic cloves
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, finely chopped

¾ cup coarsely grated pepper Jack cheese (about 5 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup canned mild enchilada sauce
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
Accompaniment: Sour cream

In a heavy skillet cook onion and mushrooms in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until golden. Add spinach and garlic and cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans, lemon juice, scallions, pepper Jack, salt, to taste, and cook stirring, until cheese is melted.

In a small saucepan, heat enchilada sauce.

Heat a dry skillet (large enough to hold 1 tortilla) over moderately high heat until hot. In skillet heat tortillas, 1 at a time, turning frequently, 30 seconds, or until softened, and transfer to a work surface. Divide filling between tortillas and roll up burritos.

Spoon sauce over burritos and serve with sour cream.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve been sick for the past few days, and there are several things I do to self-comfort when I’m not feeling well. Ever since I was very young, my mother swears that fresh-squeezed orange juice always cures me. But I also crave the comfort and magical healing powers of chicken noodle soup. I usually try to keep some of this soup in the freezer to have on hand when the need arises, but this recipe is easy enough that I can usually muster the energy to prepare it even when I’m under the weather. Once you try this recipe, you will never settle for the canned soup again.

Source: Chicken Noodle Soup,
Williams Sonoma Soup

6 cups
chicken stock or prepared broth
1 skinless, boneless whole chicken breast, about ½ pound
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
2 ounces dried thin egg noodles
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the stock to a simmer. Add the chicken breast and simmer just until tender and no trace of pink remains, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the chicken cool in the liquid. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes. Set aside.

Return the chicken stock to a simmer over medium-high heat and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Simmer until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 10 minutes, skimming away any foam that rises to the surface of the stock.

Add the cubed chicken, noodle, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the noodles are tender, about 3 minutes.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

This dish is a vegetarian version of baked penne, but it’s so good that you’ll never miss the meat. Roasting the vegetables maintains some of the crunch and brings out all the sweetness and great flavors. Oddly, I couldn't find smoked mozzarella at my grocery store this time, so I improvised with regular mozzarella and a few dashes of Liquid Smoke. In the end, this dish was super easy to throw together and was a big hit at dinner.

Source: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables, Giada De Laurentiis

2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cremini mushrooms, halved
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
½ cup grated smoked mozzarella
1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup grated Parmesan, plus ⅓ cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining ⅓ cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Croque Monsieur

Croque monsieur is simply a fancy French grilled ham and cheese sandwich, and this recipe is delicious! I used a crusty French loaf for the bread, which adds a wonderful crunchy texture. The Gruyère, ham, and mustard complement each other perfectly, and the cheese sauce adds richness to the flavor of the sandwich. The result is a tasty indulgence. Thanks to Kathy of All Food Considered for such a great Barefoot Bloggers selection.

Croque Monsieur, Barefoot in Paris

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyère, grated (5 cups)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, ½ cup grated Gruyère, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyère. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyère, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Container Herb Garden

In honor of Earth Day, I planted an herb garden in a large container for my patio. Select a container pot large enough to hold a combination of your favorite herbs. For my herb garden, I used Roma tomatoes, flat-leaf Italian parsley, dill, cilantro, and basil. I also planted rosemary in a separate pot, since it will grow into a fairly sizable bush.

Source: Like Planting Veggies in a Barrel,

Friday, April 17, 2009


I made falafel again this weekend for my sister, who was visiting. I wanted a different sauce from the tahini sauce that I made last time. This tzatziki, or cucumber yogurt sauce, was perfect with the falafel!

1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh juice of 1 lemon
½ cucumber

Cut the cucumber half lengthwise into fourths, then chop into ½-inch pieces. Mix together all the ingredients.

Serve as an accompaniment to falafel or

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce and White Truffle Oil

Gnocchi is one of my favorite comfort foods. They are petite pillows of potato dumplings. I saw this recipe on 101 Cookbooks and had to try for myself. This was not necessarily a difficult recipe but it does take time, patience, and practice as you roll, cut, and shape your gnocchi.

Be sure to cook the potatoes unpeeled—this was an important detail I missed in my first attempt. This helps the russet potatoes hold their shape and limit the amount of water they absorb.
When you drop these babies into the boiling water to cook, they will let you know they’re done by floating to the top. It really doesn’t take very long, either, which is good so that you get busy eating! I made a gorgonzola cheese sauce to serve with the gnocchi and drizzled white truffle oil on top—so delicious!

Source: How to Make Gnocchi Like an Italian Grandmother, 101 Cookbooks

2 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Scant 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
Fine grain sea salt

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water, then cut potatoes in half and place them in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, this takes roughly 40-50 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the water one at a time with a slotted spoon. Place each potato piece on a large cutting board and peel it before moving on to the next potato. Also, peel each potato as soon as possible after removing from the water (without burning yourself). Be mindful that you want to work relatively quickly so you can mash the potatoes when they are hot. To do this you can either push the potatoes through a ricer or food mill or simply with a fork. You want a nice fluffy potato base to work with. Don't over-mash—you are simply after an even consistency with no noticeable lumps.

Let the potatoes cool spread out across the cutting board—10-15 minutes or long enough that the egg won't cook when it is incorporated into the potatoes. When you are ready, pull the potatoes into a soft mound. Drizzle with the beaten egg and sprinkle ¾ cup of the flour across the top. With a pastry scraper, scrape underneath and fold, scrape and fold until the mixture is a light crumble. Very gently, with a feathery touch knead the dough. This is also the point you can add more flour (a sprinkle at a time) if the dough is too tacky. The dough should be moist but not sticky.

It should feel almost billowy. Cut it into 8 pieces. Now gently roll each ⅛th of dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife to cut pieces every ¾-inch. Dust with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi hold a fork in one hand and place a gnocchi pillow against the tines of the fork, cut ends out. With confidence and an assertive (but light) touch, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight "C" shape, their backs will capture the impression of the tines as tiny ridges (good for catching sauce later). Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them. This step takes some practice; don't get discouraged.

Now that you are on the final stretch, bring a fresh pot of (salted) water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time. They will let you know when they are cooked because they will pop back up to the top. Fish them out of the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon ten seconds or so after they've surfaced. Gently toss with sauce or pesto of your choice (don't overdo it, it should be a light dressing), and serve immediately, family-style with a drizzle of good olive oil or truffle oil on top.

Gorgonzola Cheese Sauce
This cheese sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. Gorgonzola cheese is an Italian blue cheese but has a softer, creamier flavor than traditional blue cheese. This sauce is easy to make and hardly takes any time to come together. Since gorgonzola can be a little salty on its own, I’d advise using very little, if any, salt. Very rich and full of flavor!

1 ½ cup heavy cream
¾ pound gorgonzola
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and sauté until just tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the heavy cream but do not boil. Add the gorgonzola and stir until melted and smooth. Whisk in flour, one tablespoon at a time and allow the sauce to thicken. Stir in the mushrooms. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Every Easter, I make this Greek Easter lamb soup. Traditionally, Mageiritsa is prepared on Holy Saturday. This soup my all time favorite (probably because it’s a once-a-year treat)! It has such a rich, unique flavor that comes from the lamb stock. The egg and lemon mixture adds depth of flavor, and gives it the look of a cream-based soup without the use of any cream at all. Delicious!

The trickiest part of preparing this dish is tempering the egg and lemon mixture and adding it to the soup.
Tempering is the process of adding a cooler liquid to a hotter one (usually containing eggs) to prevent curdling. The tempering process is very important to keep the egg from cooking into stringy shreds—it should be smooth and well blended. McHubby usually helps me with this step of the preparation. I whisk-whisk-whisk like a mad woman while he slowly adds a few ladlefuls to my bowl. I know it’s enough when the bowl is warm to the touch. Then he keeps the liquid moving, stirring with a wooden spoon, as I slowly add the mixture to the pot.

Adapted from: Mageiritsa, The Food and Wine of Greece

Lamb stock:
10 to 12 cups water
Lamb bones (for making stock)
1 yellow onion, unpeeled, quartered
20 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 sprigs fresh dill
8 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, crushed
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

Lamb stock
¼ cup olive oil
6 to 7 scallions, finely chopped
1 pound boneless lamb, shredded or finely chopped
1 to 1 ½ cups chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh fennel
1 to 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
⅓ cup long-grain rice
2 to 3 large eggs, at room temperature
Strained fresh juice of 1 to 2 large lemons
Freshly ground pepper

Bring water to boil and add a generous amount of salt. Add lamb bones and remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 hours. Strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids. Return stock to the pot.

Add shredded lamb, herbs, fennel, and lemon zest to the pot. Add more water, if necessary, and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes. Add rice and continue simmering until soft.

In the meantime, in a medium-sized bowl, beat together egg and lemon juice until frothy. Very slowly add 4 to 5 ladlefuls (2 to 3 cups) of hot soup to egg mixture, until egg is tempered, beating vigorously with a whisk to keep egg from curdling. Pour egg mixture into pot and stir well with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 1 minute, but don’t allow to boil or egg will curdle. Serve hot, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ina’s Chinese Chicken Salad

Whenever I come across a recipe with a long list of ingredients, I approach with caution. I was relieved that I already had most of the ingredients in my cabinets. This dish came together pretty easily. I only used 3 chicken breasts, but they were really large. After the chicken finished cooking, I put McHubby on chicken shredding duty while I worked on the dressing. I was hesitant to use the full amount of salt after reading the reviews online, but I ended up using the 2 teaspoons anyway, probably because my soy sauce was low-sodium. I also doubled the amount of honey for a slightly sweeter flavor.

In the end, we liked this dish. I served over thin oriental noodles, like udon. Thanks to McKenzie of Kenzie's Kitchen for selecting this Barefoot Bloggers recipe.

Chinese Chicken Salad, Barefoot Contessa Parties!

4 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound asparagus, ends removed, and cut in thirds diagonally
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 scallions (white and green parts), sliced diagonally
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds, toasted

For the dressing:
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup good apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons dark sesame oil
½ tablespoon honey
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon peeled, grated fresh ginger
½ tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred the chicken in large bite-sized pieces.

Blanch the asparagus in a pot of boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain. Cut the peppers in strips about the size of the asparagus pieces. Combine the cut chicken, asparagus, and peppers in a large bowl.

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the chicken and vegetables. Add the scallions and sesame seeds and season to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Slow-Cooker Oatmeal

My favorite everyday breakfast is a hot, steaming bowl of oatmeal. I don’t really care for instant oatmeal. For me, it has to be cooked the old-fashioned way to produce a nice thick, sticky texture. This recipe makes it as easy as possible to enjoy a bowl first thing in the morning by letting the slow-cooker do all the work. You just need to set it up at night before you go to bed, and you wake up to a hot breakfast.

Since oatmeal is a matter of personal preference—some people like a thick consistency while others like it a little soupy—you may have to play with the amount of oats or water to suit your taste. For me, I like it somewhere in between—not a gloppy gelatinous glue-like texture, but more on the thick side than the soupy side. I like it to be pourable but thick. When I make this recipe, I use steel-cut oats and 4 ½ cups of water.

Keep in mind, not all oats are created equal. There is a difference between steel-cut oats and regular rolled oats. Steel-cut oats (sometimes called Irish oats, Scotch oats, or coarse-cut oats) are whole grain groats (the inner portion of the oat kernel) that have been cut into only two or three pieces. Rolled oats, on the other hand, are traditionally oat groats that have been rolled into flat flakes.

Because of the textural differences, cooking times will vary between them—rolled oats need less cooking time than the steel-cut oats. The basic recipe provided here is for steel-cut oats. If you are using rolled oats, be sure that they are not quick cooking or instant, and reduce the cooking time from 8 hours to 4 hours using an automatic timer.

How to Make Crockpot Oatmeal,

4 cups water
1 cups steel-cut oats
¼ teaspoon salt

Toppings (optional):
Brown sugar
Maple syrup
Fruit pieces (e.g., apples, blueberries, bananas, dried cranberries, figs, etc.)

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and turn on low heat. Cover with lid and cook for 8 hours. Add toppings and serve hot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nigella’s Mushy Peas

I love these mushy peas! It’s a fun and different way to eat your vegetables, similar to cauliflower mash. Easy to make and delicious, the mushy peas are a lovely, vibrant pistachio-green color on your plate.

Adapted from: Pea Purée, How to Eat

1 pound frozen baby peas
⅓ cup water
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
½ onion, chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put frozen peas in a large saucepan with water, garlic, and chopped onions. Cover with lid and cook on high heat. When steam is visible from the lid, turn off heat, stir, and cover for a few minutes longer to allow the peas to continue steaming.

Drain and put into a food processor. Add butter, heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Purée until blended. Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Return puréed peas to saucepan and keep warm until ready to serve.

Grilled Leg of Lamb

When perfectly marinated and seasoned, grilled lamb just might be my favorite grilled meat. The seasons from the marinade soak into the lamb, producing beautiful, layered, and complex flavors that are only enhanced with the smokiness from the grill.

I really like this marinade because it is so flavorful with the red wine and only has a small amount of olive oil. (Other marinades I’ve used contained much more olive oil, which can then cause grease fires on the grill.) I let it sit in the marinade all day while I was at work. When I came home, I removed the meat from the marinade and seasoned it with an herb rub mixture before grilling.

Adapted from: Classic Roast Leg of Lamb,
The Food and Wine of Greece; and Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Gourmet Magazine

2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary and/or oregano, chopped
Strained fresh juice of 2 lemons
1 cup dry red wine
1 boneless leg of lamb, butterflied, about 5 pounds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Herb Rub:
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Strained juice of 1 lemon

Rinse the lamb well and pat dry with paper towels. Trim fat and set aside.

To prepare the marinade, finely chop garlic cloves and combine them in a large bowl with olive oil, rosemary and/or oregano, juice of lemons, and red wine. Marinate lamb in mixture, covered and refrigerated, for 6 to 12 hours, turning lamb every few hours.

Prepare the herb rub. Finely chop garlic cloves and stir together with the remaining ingredients.

Remove lamb from marinade and put in a large dish. With the tip of a sharp knife held at a 45-degree angle, cut ½-inch slits all over lamb. Rub the herb rub mixture into the slits and all over the lamb.

Prepare the grill. On a lightly oiled rack, grill lamb about 10 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers at 125 degrees F for medium-rare. Remove from grill, loosely cover with aluminum foil, and let the meat rest, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mac and Cheese Bites

These Mac and Cheese Balls were a big hit at our party! So simple and delicious, this was a perfect party food. The great thing about this recipe is that you can stretch out the preparation to suit your schedule. There is a lot of inactive prep time—the macaroni and cheese needs time to set in the refrigerator before you form the balls, and then the balls need time in the freezer before you dip into an egg wash and bread crumb coating.

When you are ready to fry the balls, be sure to use a candy thermometer and keep a close eye on the temperature. Remember, the temperature will drop when you drop the balls into the hot oil, so you'll need to monitor and adjust the stove setting. If the temperature gets too hot or too cool, it will affect the cooking time.

Adapted from:
Fried Mac and Cheese Balls, Chef’s Market

Makes: 6 servings

1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, warmed, plus 3 tablespoons for egg wash
1 pound grated Cheddar
1 pound grated smoked Gouda
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 extra-large eggs
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Marinara or Alfredo sauce, to serve

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and stir it with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes. Whisk the warmed milk into the flour mixture, working out any lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the cheeses, and stir until melted and smooth; season with salt and pepper. Fold the cheese sauce into macaroni. Pour the macaroni and cheese into a shallow pan and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

Shape the cold macaroni and cheese into meatball-sized balls and place them onto a waxed paper-lined tray. Freeze the balls overnight.

Beat the eggs and 2 tablespoons milk together to form an egg wash and pour it into a shallow bowl. Put the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl. Remove the macaroni and cheese balls from the freezer. Dip the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the bread crumbs. Put the balls back into the freezer until you are ready to fry.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 350 degrees F. Fry the macaroni and cheese balls until they are golden brown and center is hot, about 5 minutes. Serve hot with your favorite marinara or Alfredo sauce or combination or both for dipping.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tartlets

I made Ina Garten’s Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts last week for Barefoot Bloggers and really enjoyed them. This time I made them as smaller appetizers for a party. Instead of cutting the puff pastry in 6-inch circles, I used a 3-inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Also, I used grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise to substitute for the larger tomato slices. This is a great recipe that can easily be scaled so that it can either be a meal served with a side salad or made into smaller tartlets to serve as an appetizer, as I’ve done here. This was a crowd pleaser!

Chunky Guacamole

Appetizers for a crowd don't get any easier than guacamole, and this one is so full of flavor. It really is just a matter of mixing all the ingredients together. I prefer a chunky guacamole rather than a smooth, blended texture. I usually cut the avocado flesh while it's still in the half-shell, cutting a diced pattern. Then I simply scoop out the flesh into the bowl and mix together with the other ingredients using a rubber spatula. Delicious!

Adapted from: Guacamole, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Makes: 3 cups

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce
½ cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocado in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl.

Immediately add the lime juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the cilantro and tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

Coconut Cake

For McHubby's birthday, he requested this coconut cake. When finished topping the cake with the shredded coconut, it looks like a beautiful, white, fluffy cloud. Underneath is a rich, indulgent cream cheese frosting and a sweet, delicious cake with a light coconut, almond flavor.

This cake can also be made in advance for convenience. After baking the cakes and letting them cool thoroughly, wrap them well and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Frost the cake when you're ready and serve at room temperature.

Coconut Cake, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Serves: 10 to 12

¾ pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure
vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon pure
vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise

Sliders, or miniature hamburgers, are a great party food when you want to have appetizers or smaller sized portions. To ensure that the seasonings permeate the meat mixture before I form my patties, I added Worcestershire sauce and English prime rib rub to the ground chuck and lightly mixed together.

Adapted from: Sliders with Chipotle Mayonnaise, Bobby Flay

Makes: 6 to 8 servings

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
½ lime, juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 to 1 ½ pounds ground chuck, 80/20
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon English prime rib rub
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cheese slices, your choice

Mini burger buns Burger Bar (if desired):
Chipotle Mayonnaise
Red onions
Tomato slices

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and puree. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Preheat grill over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, lightly mix the ground chuck, Worcestershire sauce, English prime rib rub, salt, and pepper until just blended. Form the meat into 2 to 3-ounce portions, packed tightly.

Place the sliders on the grill. Wait until they are nice and crusty on the first side, about 4 to 5 minutes and then flip and cook another 4 minutes. When the sliders are about done, top with desired cheese and close the grill, allowing the cheese to melt.

Place the slider on mini burger buns and top with chipotle mayonnaise and any other desired toppings.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo

I get rave reviews every time I make this recipe, especially from McHubby. The presentation of this dish is so appetizing with its plump, pink shrimp, chunks of cucumber and feta, and chopped herbs. The flavors of these ingredients complement each other very well. The cucumbers and onions add a nice crunch, while the dill and lemon juice wake up the flavor in this dish. This dish can be prepared in advance and also travels well. Serve it warm or cold.

Roasted Shrimp and Orzo, Barefoot Contessa at Home

Makes: 6 servings

Kosher salt
Good olive oil
¾ pound orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds (16 to 18 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
½ cup small-diced red onion
¾ pound good feta cheese, large diced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the shrimp on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread out in a single layer. Roast for 5 to 6 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. Don't overcook!

Add the shrimp to the orzo and then add the scallions, dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss well. Add the feta and stir carefully. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Dirty Snowballs

Frequently requested, Dirty Snowballs are a favorite among our friends. With only three ingredients, they are super simple to make. I've made these for parties and tailgates. Nobody can eat just one!

I measure the filling mixture with a melon baller when forming my "snowballs" to ensure that they are not too large and consistently sized. They should be the size of a gumball. I use white chocolate to make my "snowballs" but you can substitute dark or milk chocolate instead, if you prefer. 

Makes: 5 dozen
1 package Oreo cookies (not Double Stuff)
1 package cream cheese
16 ounces white chocolate

Crumb the package of Oreo cookies in a food processor. Add the
package of cream cheese and combine. Using a melon baller, form balls and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Working gently and quickly with two spoons, coat the balls one at a time with the chocolate and set on cookie sheet. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, until ready to serve.