Thursday, February 25, 2010

Homemade Stuffed Grape Leaves (Dolmades)

Do any of you out there consider stuffed grape leaves or dolmades comfort food? I do. Man o' man are they good.

How I got such a taste for these is beyond me as I've never had them growing up. I bet most people have never even thought to make them at home but it's so easy. Dolmades are perfect for a meze platter, light lunch, or a quick snack. I couldn't even tell you which way I prefer, served hot or cold, because both ways are great.

Homemade Stuffed Grape Leaves

1 16 ounce jar of grape leaves
1 pound of ground lamb/venison
1 medium onion - chopped
1 cup basmati rice
Juice from 1 lemon
1 lemon - sliced thinly
2 cups chopped parsley
1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

Place two skillets on separate burners on medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil in each skillet. In one skillet, place the venison and break it up into small pieces with the edge of a wooden spoon. Cook the venison until browned. Remove from heat. In the other skillet, saute the onion until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir in for about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and simmer on low, covered for about 10 minutes. Let the rice rest for about 5 minutes.

Combine the venison, rice mixture, juice from 1 lemon, salt and parsley.

Drain the jar grape leaves. Spread out one grape leave. Place approximately a rounded tbsp of the rice on the stem side of the grape leave. Fold the stem edge over and then fold in the ends. Wrap the remaining part of the leaf as tightly as possible around the rolled mixture. Continue until all the leaves are used and the rice mixture is gone.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil on the bottom of a heavy pot. Pour 1/3 of the can of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Line the pot with the grape leaves in two layers. In between layers add another 1/3 of the can of tomatoes along with a few slices of lemon and top with the remaining third of the can and lemon slices.

Simmer in a covered pot for about 45 minutes. Enjoy hot or cold.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spicy BBQ Grilled Shrimp

As often as we eat shrimp I am shocked, dismayed actually, that I've not coated shrimp with BBQ sauce before. And I call myself a cook? What?%$#@*

Moving on...Grilling and shrimp go together like no one's business. BBQ sauce on shrimp with a little blue cheese dressing to dip in is heavenly. Try it, you'll like it!

Spicy BBQ Grilled Shrimp

2 pounds of extra jumbo shrimp
1 cup of hot BBQ sauce
lemon for garnishing
blue cheese dressing for dipping

Marinate the shrimp in the BBQ sauce for about 20 minutes. While you're waiting for the shrimp to marinate, get your grill screaming hot. (We like nice grill marks ;)

Carefully place the shrimp on the grill. Grill for about 2 minutes per side. Shorter time if your shrimp isn't extra jumbo. Serve with a side of blue cheese dressing for dunking.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Black Bean Dip with Flour Tortilla Strips

I love dips. Something about being able to eat with your fingers makes eating more fun.
Black Bean Dip with Flour Tortilla Strips
2 cans of black beans - drained and rinsed
1 cup of chicken stock
2 cloves of garlic
1 poblano - chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tbsp tabasco sauce (the vinegar flavor of tabasco is key to perking this dish up)
1 tsp salt
sour cream for garnishing
2 flour tortillas
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder

In a small pot simmer the beans, stock, garlic, poblano, tabasco and salt for about 20 minutes. Place the beans in a blender and blend until smooth.

On a sheet pan place the tortillas. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and chili powder. Bake for about 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut into bite size triangles.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Smoked Turkey with Roasted Chilies Enchiladas with Verde Sauce

I got so excited when it was time to eat dinner last night that I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. This picture of the enchiladas, right before they were put in the oven, will have to suffice. It so dark it's a horrible pic. Sorry. I considered not blogging about it but that would have been a waste as this dish is so easy to make but so amazingly flavorful!

Actually I've been holding back a little because I made a dish similar with pork instead of smoked turkey last weekend. No pics from that dish either because I brought it over to a friend's house and it was devoured lickity-split. The main thing to remember is the type of meat doesn't really matter as long as it's moist. It doesn't hurt if the meat is smoked or grilled too.

Friday the weather was spectacular. The sun was blazing causing all the icicles to melt. I got to thinking about a turkey, leg, thigh and wing I had in the freezer from a T-bird that I quartered around Thanksgiving time. I froze what I wasn't using. (By the way this was a fabulous idea because the turkey pieces that I put in the freezer to be enjoyed later were unbelievably good.)

Anyways, back to Friday. I had been dreaming of making another enchilada dish because that first one (last weekend) was so amazing. I thawed my turkey meat, set the smoker up and went to town getting the meat smoked for my dinner for the following evening. I added charcoal and wood chips to my shopping list because I've decided we don't do this enough. It was really fun (and good!).

So Friday I smoked the meat for about three hours and then put it in the oven in a casserole dish with the chicken stock, sealed with tin foil and baked at a low temperature to get the turkey to a moist, fall-off-the-bone state.

Once cooled I removed the meat from the bones and tendons, poured the juices over top and put in a Tupperware for dinner on Saturday.

Saturday I thawed some roasted chilies that we froze during the summer months. (Another really good thing to do if you're up to it!)
Around dinner time I chopped an onion, threw in the chopped chilies, and smoked turkey meat.

Grate the cheese.

Wrapped the mixture in tortillas with a little cheese and placed the enchiladas in a casserole dish. I poured a jar of Herdez brand Verde sauce over top evenly and then sprinkled with cheese. Bake and enjoy! Delish!

About 2 pounds of smoked turkey meat (I used a thigh, leg and wing)
1 large onion - roughly chopped
2 cups of roasted, coarsely chopped chilies (a mixture of ancho, poblano and jalapenos)
8 ounces monterey jack cheese shredded
8 fat free flour tortillas (or regular, I prefer fat free)
1 jar of Herdez Verde sauce (or your favorite brand)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Smoking the meat - you don't have to do it but it really is good. I smoked the meat on our smoker for three hours using a combination of apple and hickory wood chips. I then finished the meat for another two hours in the oven. (See note above.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When I was ready to pull my casserole dish together I heat a skillet on medium high heat. Add the olive oil and toss in the onions. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Add the chilies and turkey meat. Once it is heated through pull the skillet off the heat and allow to cool a little for easier handling.

Place about a cup of the meat, onion, chili mixture on each tortilla with a light sprinkling of cheese. Wrap and place in the casserole dish. Continue until you have used all the meat mixture and filled all 8 tortillas.

Drizzle the Verdes sauce over top evenly. Sprinkle the cheese that is left. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peppered Scallops with Asparagus

Such a simple dinner. When asparagus so tender it-makes-your-eyes-roll-up-in-your-head arrives in the store, does that mean it's spring? Irregardless of all the white stuff laying on the ground and the icicles having off our roof I think it does.

How do you pair something with the asparagus when it's that good? It's hard but scallop's sweet, delicate flavor might cut it. Maybe...

8 scallops
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 bunch FRESH asparagus
1 tsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 lemon wedges

On a small plate combine the tbsp of black pepper, 1 1/2 tsp salt and sugar. Dry the scallops with a paper towel. Press each side of each scallop into the black pepper blend. Heat a skillet on medium high with the olive oil. Place the scallops in and cook for about 3 minutes on each side. Squeeze a lemon wedge over the scallops as it finishes cooking

While the scallops are cooking heat a skillet with a cup of water. Cut the ends off the asparagus and place in the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes. Finish with the butter, juice from a lemon wedge, salt and pepper.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Healthy Soup - Week 7: Soup for the Soul

We had a pretty critical moment this week. The Hub was sick. Monday he woke with a bad cold. By Tuesday he was in pretty bad shape but the worker bee that he is - he went to work. I received an email from him mid day: 'I want a spicy, brothy soup with noodles for dinner.' Hmmmm, a man after my heart? Well, yeah, he already has that.

I haven't mentioned this to him but I'm convinced the craving came from watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain where Anthony was expounding about the virtues of hot asian style soup with slurpy noodles. Yum.

My version...

Red Curry Broth with Baby Bok, Mushrooms and Chinese Noodles (plus a little cayenne for love..)
6 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup red curry paste
2 inch cube of peeled ginger - minced
5 garlic cloves - minced
6 baby bok choy - sliced thinly
12 cremini - sliced
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1 pound of chinese noodles - cooked al dente.

In a soup pot simmer the garlic and ginger. After about a minute stir in the curry paste and 1 cup of broth. Once the broth is combined add the remaining broth, the boks, cremini slices, cayenne powder, salt and fish sauce. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Finish with the honey and sesame oil. Ladle in bowls and top with noodles. Inhale the wonderful aroma and dive in.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Memory of My Sweet Dog

1997 - 2010

Fame - The girl is in my heart.

Fame has the most playful spirit.

I had to let her go today but she's in doggie heaven playing in a creek with her friends Esie and Rocky.

Rocky and Esie - don't expect her to share.

May you rest in peace, Famer.

Esie and Rocky may be fun but Fame will really miss playing circle in the backyard with her Daddy and kickin' Dude's ass.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lemon Dill Baked Salmon

Have you ever thought of healthy food as comfort food? You will groan in pleasure when you taste this salmon. Not only does salmon have tremendous healthy qualities but this recipe makes the salmon melt-in-your-mouth yummy. I really like to pick out a large fillet because then I can pretty much ensure there will be leftovers. I'd be hard pressed to say which way I like this better: hot with a nice vegetable side or cold over a bed of baby greens with a light vinaigrette. Either way, trust me, you'll be glad you made it. Feel good food at its best.

1 1 1/2 pound salmon fillet
2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the lemon into thin slices.

In a baking dish layer 6 lemon slices. Lay the salmon on top, skin side down. Drizzle the top of the salmon with olive oil. Then sprinkle with the dill, salt and pepper.

Top by layering the remaining lemon slices.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Test for doneness by lightly pulling the salmon with a fork at the thickest part to make sure it gently flakes. Be careful not to overcook so the salmon does not dry out. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Remove the top lemon layer.

Enjoy! Remember leftovers can be great served with crackers, cream cheese and capers; with a salad; or, on a sandwich.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chicken Parmesean Sandwich

The other night I was on my own for dinner. Everything I could think of cooking seemed to require too much effort. Then I discovered a leftover chicken boob in the fridge....

My brain went into overdrive and pretty soon I had the most delicious chicken parm sandwich on my plate. Sometimes the simplest dinners can be the most rewarding!

1 cooked chicken boob
2 slices of your favorite bread
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1-2 slices of cheese
a few olives for garnish.

Toast the bread. Warm the boob in a skillet. Top with the sauce and cheese. Cover and heat until the cheese melts. Slap the boob, sauce, and cheese between the bread. Lift to lips.

P>S> Happy Valentines Day!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Crusty Rosemary Bread

We've had quite the snowy week here in Ohio. Lots of school closings, power outages, sled rides, snow ball fights, and snowmen erected. Fun stuff! I don't have kids but my guess is parents have whipped out the hot chocolate and marshmallows almost every day this week.

All well and good, but, my memories of my childhood on that snow day was the yeasty smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. Upon the bread cooling but still warm, my mom would cut thick slices and slather with room temperature butter. Decadence.

1 tsp active yeast
1 1/2 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
extra flour and cornmeal for dusting

Prepare the dough in the morning of the day you plan on enjoying it. Mix the yeast, water and sugar. Let rest for a few minutes so the yeast can activate. Add in the remaining ingredients. Mix with a fork until fully combined. The dough will be shaggy. Cover and set aside for at least four hours. After four hours has passed turn the dough out on a lightly flour dusted surface. Need the dough about 20 times. Dust a little cornmeal on the counter. Place the dough on the cornmeal. Dust a little more on the top of the bread.
Cover with a slightly damp towel. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 -2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place a heavy enameled pot in the oven to preheat. Once the pot has preheated for about 20 minutes, place the dough in the pot and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fried Mushrooms with Oelek Mayo

Have trouble perfecting that delicious fair food - fried breaded mushrooms? I've discovered the trick. Saute - Season - Bread - Fry. Sound simple? It is, you'll love it!
Fried Mushrooms with Oelek Mayo
1 pound large mushrooms - quartered
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (something truly great happens when black pepper and mushrooms come together)
1 tsp salt

Heat a saute with the olive oil. Add the mushrooms and toss to lightly coat with the oil. Season with the salt and pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes or until most of the mushroom surface looks like it has come into some contact with the heat. The mushrooms should be firm still. Set aside to cool slightly.

2 cups panko
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 egg
2 cups milk
4 cups of canola or peanut oil

Grab two plastic bags. In one bag, place the panko. In another bag place the flour, salt, and paprika. In a bowl large enough to toss the mushrooms around mix the egg and milk.

Set up an assembly line. First toss the mushrooms in the flour. Shake as much flour off as possible. Place in the egg mixture and roll around to coat. With a fork or a flat whisk remove the mushroom, allow to drain, and place in the panko. Coat in the panko and place on a baking sheet or plate . Repeat until you have coated all the mushrooms.

Heat the oil to between 350-365 degrees in a heavy sauce pan. Have a sheet pan lined with a paper bag or paper towels ready to drain the mushrooms once they come out of the oil. Add the mushrooms in batches to the oil being careful not to add too many mushrooms at a time so that it cools down the oil. Fry each batch for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow to drain on your paper lined sheet pan. Lightly salt immediately after removing from the oil

Serve with your favorite sauce. Mine happens to be Oelek hot sauce and mayonnaise: 1/2 tbsp oelek and 3 tbsp mayonnaise.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Spanakopita Triangles

I love spinach. I love phyllo pastry. I love Feta. Together I love them even more.

Spanakopita Triangles
Makes about 11 triangles, 3 WW pts/serving
2 10-ounces boxes of frozen chopped spinach
6 ounces feta - belgium if you can find it
1 tbsp dried dill or 3 tbsp fresh dill
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp of butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
thawed phyllo dough
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Thaw the spinach and with your hands squeeze out all the water. Place the spinach on a chopping block and roughly chop to eliminate the potential for stringiness. Once the spinach is chopped, place in a bowl and stir with a fork to reduce any clumps of spinach. Place the feta in the bowl and use the fork to break it up and mix with the spinach. Add in the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.

Melt the butter and mix in the olive oil. Carefully making sure to cover the phyllo dough with saran wrap so that it does not dry out, place 1 sheet horizontal in front of you. Brush with the butter and olive oil mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup of spinach mixture onto the lower left corner of the phyllo sheet. Folding lengthwise fold the phyllo sheet in half over the spinach mixture. Take the part of the sheet that has the spinach mixture. Fold it over. Continue folding to create little triangles. Brush both sides of the triangle with the butter mixture. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.

Bake for 6 minutes and then turn the triangles. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes so that both sides are golden.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Healthy Soup - Week 5: HOT Habanero Venison Chili

A few years ago, one of the galleries that carries my pottery had a chili event. Buy a bowl, fill it with chili for free. All the artists contributed a chili to the event. One of the chili's was habanero flavored. It was wonderfully infused with the flavor and scent of the habanero but wasn't overbearing in heat. That chili has haunted me ever since. I absolutely love the distinct flavor of the habanero. This is my version of that amazing chili I tasted that day.

HOT Habanero Venison Chili
12 servings, 5 WW pts per serving (not counting the condiments)2 lbs ground venison
2 tbsp olive oil
1 28 ounce can of tomato puree + 1 can full of water to rinse out the can
2 cans red beans - rinsed and drained
1 large red onion - diced
32 ounces vegetable stock
2 good quality beers (not lite beers here please)
2 tbsp chopped pickled habaneros
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp smoked chipolte powder
1 tsp ancho chili power
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tabasco

In a heavy soup pan saute pan heat the olive oil. Saute the onions for about 4 minutes. Add the venison and saute, breaking up the venison into small pieces. Cook until the venison is browned about 7 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients and let simmer for an hour. Serve with your favorite chili condiments like cheese, sour cream, cilantro or tortilla chips.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Panaag Curried Mussels and Clams

As you probably can tell by how often I post about curries - I can't get enough. I really wish I could make my own curry paste but unfortunately I can't source the peppers where I live. We do have a fabulous international market that stocks great ingredients. Some of my favorite pantry items are the canned curry pastes made by Maesri. Sure, fresh would be best but when that is not available this is definitely a great option. Looking at the ingredient list, there are not chemicals and preservatives or artificial flavorings but whole food ingredients like peppers, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass.

This dish will warm your heart on a cold and blustery day!

Panaag Curried Mussels and Clams
2 dozen medium neck clams
1 pounds mussels
Crusty bread for dunking in the sauce
lemon wedges

Panaag Curry Sauce
1 4-ounce can panaag curry (Maesri Brand)
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp honey

In a large saucepan with a lid, combine the curry sauce ingredients with a whisk. Once the curry sauce is heated through, add the clams, top with the lid, and steam until each clam opens. As the clams open pull them out of the saucepan with a set of tongs and set aside. Place a lid or piece of tin foil over to keep them warm. Add the mussels in the sauce and repeat the process of steaming the mussels, removing the mussels as they open.

To plate, place a combination of mussels and clams on a deep plate or bowl. Spoon the sauce over the shellfish.

Serve with some crusty bread and lemon wedges.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crab Stuffed Lobster

Valentines Day is quickly approaching. I wanted to make a special dish that could give you some ideas on how to cook your Special One an incredible meal. I went to the store and decided what to make based on what looked the freshest - Lobster and Crab Meat. How about a stuffed lobster? Hmmmm - yum!

There were two grades of crab meat: 'Special' and 'Lump'. I asked what the difference was between the 'special' and 'lump' and learned that the 'special' grade had a finer texture and not as big of pieces as the 'lump' grade. The price was great so I decided to give it a try. Boy, I'm glad I did because this crab was so deliciously sweet - in a good crab way.

I was really excited about the lobster because I've not had it recently but I've got to say, that crab meat was spectacular. I would highly recommend making this stuffed lobster. But if you don't want to splurge on lobster AND crab you could just make the crab stuffing and make crab cakes. We used the extra crab meat in crab cakes and it was divine as well.

Crab Stuffed Lobster
1 2 pound lobster
lemon wedges and melted butter for dipping
Crab Stuffing
1 pound can of 'Special' grade crab meat
2 pieces of whole wheat bread
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Toast the 2 slices of bread and leave in the toaster while you finish with your prep.

Cut the lobster in half cutting through the head first. Remove the insides from the cavity. Rinse.

In a bowl, add the crab meat, mayonnaise, egg, kosher salt and pepper. In a small processor, pulse the toast to a small crumb. Add the crumbs to the crab meat mixture. Gently mix together.

Spoon the crab mixture into the lobster cavity. Place both halves of the lobster in a baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges and melted butter.

Your special Valentines will love you even more after this dish!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mustard Glazed Steamed Trout with Capers

After a beautiful weekend full of a little bit of indulgences it's time to treat your body good with a healthy comfort food. This trout will send your taste buds into orbit!

Baked Trout
1 pound trout - cut into three pieces
1/2 cup white wine

Mustard Sauce
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp dijon style mustard
1 cup white whine
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a tin foil lined baking dish place the trout with 1/2 cup white wine. Bake for 10 minutes to lightly steam the fish.

Simmer all ingredients for the mustard sauce in a little sauce pan. Once the fish has been cooked, plate the fish and spoon the sauce over. Very good comfort food!

(served here with wilted swiss chard and parsleyed cannelini beans)