A Slightly Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo

Pasta is not bad for you.  The point is in moderation.  We have pasta about 3 times a month and enjoy it thoroughly, because it’s homemade and made from fresh ingredients.
  • 10 ounces fettuccine pasta (we purchase it locally from the farmer’s market)
  • 1/4 cup Smart Balance Omega with Extra Virgin Olive Oil Buttery Spread (or your favorite margarine)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup skim or reduced-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup half & half (because it’s a treat)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (we buy Parmigiano romano)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add fettucine pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

In a large skillet melt the margarine and add the chopped garlic. Cook on low for about 5 minutes, stirring often, making sure not to burn the garlic.

Pour about a 1/4 cup of the milk into a small bowl. Add the egg yolk and beat together; put aside. Pour the remaining milk and half & half into the frying pan. Increase the heat to medium-high. As the cream starts to boil, mix rapidly using a whisk. Slowly add the cream/egg mixture. You do not want the egg to curdle. Continue whisking until well blended.

Add 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and continue to mix the cream. Pour in the remaining cheese and parsley and mix until smooth.  Remove from heat, and serve over the cooked pasta.

Tuna Salad with Fresh Basil & Dill

Tuna Salad with Fresh Chives and Dill

I forgot to pack lunch today, so came home for an hour to keep things economical and healthy instead of giving into a restaurant.  Though I love going out of my way to plan and prepare meals with special trips to the grocery for key items, I’m also always a fan of coming up with something fresh with what I have on hand.

The cupboard led me to make a tuna salad sandwich with fresh herbs and toasted bun.  This was an interesting experiment, as I rarely have tuna salad and when I do I usually use a lot of fresh cilantro.  Being out of that, I chose chives and the result was a light, fresh lunch that left a nice taste on the palate.

  • 1 6 oz. can water-packed tuna, drained
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • freshly cracked pepper

Gently toss all ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for at least half an hour.  Butter French buns or other favorite bakery bread (I used Smart Balance Buttery Spread) and toast on a grill pan. Assemble sandwich, garnish with fresh herbs (optional) and enjoy! Makes 2 servings.

A Thai Dinner – Wontons and Shrimp Satay

 

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We decided to go Asian tonight after a very successful Szechuan Pork dinner last weekend.  Tonight is Thai night, and we thought we’d stick with the starters and quality ingredients.  Below is my modified wonton recipe, followed by a shrimp satay recipe fromFood & Wine Magazine.  Great when served with garlic peanut sauce  and a side of steamed edamame (soybeans).

Vegetable Wontons

  • 1 package won ton skins 
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 T low sodium soy sauce 
  • 2 teaspoons oriental dark sesame oil 
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced 
  • 1 T curry (optional) 
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced 
  • 8 scallions, cleaned and chopped 
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced 
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced 
  • 2 c. napa cabbage, chopped into thin shreds 
  • 8 water chestnuts, finely chopped (optional) 
  • Vegetable oil for frying
In a wok,  heat sesame oil and add the garlic curry and ginger. Stir with a wooden spatula for 1 minute. Add the carrot, celery, scallions, napa cabbage, and water chestnuts and sauté on high heat for another minute. Season with red wine vinegar and soy sauce. Sauté, stirring frequently until vegetables are seasoned and lightly cooked but still crunchy about 3 – 4 minutes. If more liquid is needed and vegetables seem to stick, add a few tablespoons of water or vegetable stock. Remove from heat and transfer to a stainless steel or nylon mesh strainer to drain off excess liquid.
On a clean working wooden surface, lay out the won ton skins. 
Place 1 teaspoon of the veggie mixture in the center of one side of the won ton. Fold over the edge to form a triangle. Seal the inner edges with a dab of water, then press down with a fork. 
Add veggie oil to a wok and heat on medium to medium-high heat, or about 365.  Working in batches, fry the wontons until golden and lay out on paper towls to dry.  Serve immediately!
NOTE: you can freeze the won tons and fry later.
Grilled Shrimp Satay
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large stalks of fresh lemongrass, bottom third of the tender white inner bulb only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 30 large shrimp (about 1 3/4 pounds), shelled and deveined

In a mini food processor, combine the onion, garlic, lemongrass and ginger and process to a paste. In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onion paste to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 25 minutes.

Add the ground coriander, sugar, ground fennel seeds, cumin, turmeric and salt to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Scrape the spice paste into a bowl and let cool completely.

In a large, shallow dish, coat the shrimp with the spice paste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Soak 30 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Light a grill. Thread 1 shrimp lengthwise onto each bamboo skewer and stretch each one out on the skewer. Grill over high heat for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, until the shrimp are nicely charred and just cooked through. Transfer the shrimp skewers to a platter, and serve immediately with the Garlic Peanut Sauce.

Note: Satay recipe courtesy of our friends at Food & Wine Magazine.  We could not get lemongrass at the time, and we tried pan frying instead of grilling because I don’t have a grill pan yet!

Baked Tomato Risotto

There is nothing like a creamy bowel of risotto on those nights where you have plenty of time to cook but want a simple, straight-forward meal.  For those of you who haven’t delved into the wonderful world of homemade risotto, check out this excellent article from National Public Radio.  Bon appétit!

 

  • 9 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes—peeled, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 pound arborio rice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 500°. Butter a 9-by-12-inch glass baking dish. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a bare simmer; cover and keep warm over low heat. 

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and onion and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the rice. Add about 2 cups of the hot stock, or enough to just cover the rice, and cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed.

Continue to add the stock, 2 cups at a time, stirring briskly, until the rice is tender and the sauce is creamy, about 30 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Transfer the rice to the prepared baking dish. 

Bake the rice for 1 hour, uncovered, until richly browned on top. Serve at once or let stand for up to 20 minutes before serving.

    Grilled Baby Leeks with Romesco Sauce

    We absolutely adore leeks, a vegetable that looks like a large scallion, but imparts only a light, buttery onion taste, unlike its bitter cousin.  The leek is surprisingly versatile, and is excellent when roasted with other vegetables or poultry, or puréed for soups, such as vichyssoise.  
    Here is an excellent recipe featuring simple grilled leeks with a light and healthy romesco sauce (originated from Catalonia, Spain).  We did substitute home roasted red peppers as we did not have any jars in stock, and served this with marinated grilled chicken. The response was excellent!  Enjoy!
    • 1 small ancho chile, seeded
    • 3 tablespoons hazelnuts
    • Two 1/2-inch-thick slices baguette, toasted and torn into 1-inch pieces
    • 3 tablespoons roasted almonds, preferably Marcona, coarsely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, chopped
    • 2 plum tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
    • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar, cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
    • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 16 baby leeks or thick scallions, trimmed
    Light a grill. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a small heatproof bowl, cover the ancho with hot tap water and soak until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain.
    Meanwhile, in a pie plate, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Let the hazelnuts cool, then transfer them to a kitchen towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Transfer the hazelnuts to a work surface and let cool completely, then coarsely chop.
    In a food processor, combine the ancho with the hazelnuts, toasted baguette, almonds and garlic and process to a smooth paste. Add the tomatoes, roasted red pepper and vinegar and puree. With the machine on, slowly pour in the 1/4 cup of olive oil and process until blended and smooth. Scrape the romesco sauce into a bowl, stir in the parsley and season with salt and black pepper.
    Brush the leeks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until charred all over, about 3 minutes. Serve with the romesco sauce alongside.
    The romesco sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
    *Courtesy Food & Wine Magazine

    A Healthier Toad-in-the-Hole

     

    toadinhole1

     

    Though I always stress the presentation of food, here is an exception: Toad-in-the-Hole, a classic British supper that consists of Yorkshire pudding and sausages.  Not the most attractive meal but you will be hooked and the family will ask for it by name.  It is also one of the easiest meals to make when time is short.

    As always, we use chicken sausage to cut of the majority of the fat in this recipe.  Goes well with vegetarian baked beans or roasted potatoes.

    • 1 1/2 cup of plain flour
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 lb of good-quality sausage (we always use chicken)
    • salt and pepper

    Place your baking dish in the oven with some vegetable oil and pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Sift flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Make a well in the center of the flour. Whisk the eggs and the milk into the center of the well in the flour, gradually to smooth out lumps. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

    Place the sausages into the preheated baking dish and return to the oven to brown for about 10 minutes, turning once.

    Pour the batter over the sausages and return to oven. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden. Serve at once.

    Serves 4-6

    *This picture is courtesy of watkiss online. co. uk. I will update this post with our own picture next time we serve this tasty dish.

    Reviving an Old American Staple – Bison

    Bison, also often known as “American Buffalo,” is a wonderful meat that is protein rich and more healthful than poultry (see chart below).  Once endangered, there are now over 400,000 bison in America and its meat become increasingly available to the local consumer.  More and more specialty grocers and local butchers carry it or can special-order for customers, and there are many ranches that also have online stores.

    Though bison can generally be substituted for beef in most recipes, due to its low fat content, bison doesn’t marble and will cook faster much faster.  Reducing your heat will solve the problem.  

    For more information and to find suppliers in your area, visit The National Bison Association.

     

    nutrition-chart1

    The Wine, Cheese & Etc. Forage

    Many people feel that they cannot enjoy a proper meal without taking the time for shopping, preparing and cooking.  And who has the time for that?  Your partner and friends can always enjoy a good forage:

    The Cheese.  Don’t think you have to be a total foodie to compile a good cheese arrangement.  Start with some opposites, such as a cheddar and some brie. Whatever you like.  

    The Wheat.  A couple of different types of crackers will do, and maybe any leftover french bread.

    The Drink. That’s what friends are for. Have them bring the bottle (s).

    The Etc.  A good dry salami, delicate prosciutto or basic ham from your local deli counter (or whatever is left in your fridge) is always a good compliment to the cheese.

    Arrange 3-4 cheeses, the wheat and the etc. on a large wooden cutting board or serving platter and have the wine glasses waiting.  If you have a herb garden, grab whatever is the most plentiful and use as a garnish on the tray.

    The point is that you will be sitting down to a nutritious (but yes, high in fat) meal with good company that takes little prep time.  

    Some cheese and wine experts may balk at my advice.  True, some people go all out, supplying proper utensils such as cheese knives and researching the proper wine to accompany each type of cheese. Now that takes time.  I’d rather get on with it and enjoy the food and the company, the most important part!

    Roast Pork Loin With Shiitake and Leek Compote

    • 1 large leek (white and pale green parts only)
    • a 1-pound center-cut boneless pork loin
    • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
    • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter or olive oil
    • 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/2-inch slices
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup dry red wine
    • 1/2 cup beef broth
    • Garnish: fresh parsley sprigs

    Cut leek crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and in a bowl soak in water to cover, agitating occasionally to dislodge any sand, 5 minutes. Lift leek out of water and drain in a colander.

    Trim any fat from pork. Season pork with salt and pepper and pat with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. In a 10-inch oven-proof non-stick or cast-iron skillet heat butter or oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and brown pork loin, turning it. Transfer pork to a plate.

    Preheat oven to 425°F.

    In fat remaining in skillet cook mushrooms and leek with salt over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Put pork on vegetables in skillet and roast in middle of oven 40 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted in center of pork registers 160°F.

    Transfer pork to a cutting board and let stand 10 minutes. If vegetable compote is too liquid, cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid is evaporated. Stir remaining teaspoon chopped parsley into compote.

    Slice pork thin and serve, garnished with parsley, with compote.

     

    Courtesy of epicurious.com

    Ham, Leek & Gouda Souffle

    INGREDIENTS

    • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus softened butter for brushing
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    • 6 ounces diced ham
    • 2 sliced leek whites sautéed in butter
    • 6 large eggs, separated
    • 5 ounces shredded aged Gouda
    • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
    Preheat the oven to 400° and brush eight 1-cup ramekins with butter. Lightly coat the ramekins with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and set them on a sturdy baking sheet.
    In a medium saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook over moderately low heat until smooth and very thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt and cayenne. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolks. Let cool slightly. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the Gouda, ham and leeks.
    In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at medium-high speed until frothy. Increase the speed to high and beat until firm peaks form. With a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the soufflé base until no streaks of white remain
    Spoon the soufflé mixture into the ramekins, filling them to 1/2-inch below the rim. Run your thumb inside the rim of each ramekin to help the soufflés rise evenly. Sprinkle the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano on top and bake in the bottom third of the oven until the soufflés are puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Alternatively, bake in an 8-cup soufflé at 375° for 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

    MAKE AHEAD

    The recipe can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. The soufflés can be assembled up to 1 hour ahead. The cooked soufflés can be reheated in the oven.

    Courtesy of Food & Wine Magazine