Monday, April 2, 2012

Dracula's Revenge

Sometimes my rule about making a dish more than one time goes right out the window.  Sometimes it goes out again and again.  Such is the case with this oldie but goodie from Cooking Light.

For years I was an active member of the Cooking Light Bulletin Boards.  Many recipes were exchanged, many friendships were formed and lots of good time was had by all.  Some of those virtual friends have been met in real life and many are still kept up by other means of electronic media.  Even though I no longer participate in those boards, I still have fond memories and still remember many of the recipes we all loved.  This is one of these recipes.

Named for the wonderful amount of sweet garlic in the recipe, this baked pasta never ceases to amaze and delight.  Having made this many times I have made many adjustments and below you will find my most recent tinkerings.  But for the original, head to Cooking Light.

Dracula's Revenge (Inspired by Cooking Light)

2 whole heads of garlic
1/2 lb hot turkey sausage
8 oz baby portabellas, sliced
5 oz greens (ie spinach or arugula)
1/2 t dried rosemary
1 T butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 oz shredded Swiss cheese
1 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t salt
1/8 t black pepper
4 cups hot cooked penne (about 1/2 lb uncooked)
Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350.  Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins. Set garlic aside.

Increase oven temperature to 400°.

Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add the mushrooms about half way through.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Place sausage and mushrooms in a large bowl; stir in rosemary and greens, stirring to slightly wilt the greens.  Cover tightly with foil.

Cook the pasta according to directions.  Drain and add to the sausage mixture, covering again with foil.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add the flour to melted butter, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add the milk; cook until slightly thick, stirring constantly with a whisk (about 10 minutes). Stir in roasted garlic, cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove mixture from heat.

Add cheese sauce to pasta and sausage, stirring to coat.  Spoon mixture in a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Black Bean Salad

It's amazing to me how the simplest of recipes can be the ones that Bo loves the best.  And let me tell you this one is SIMPLE!

I began making bean and grain salads for lunch when I lived in Houston.  Hot days made a cool salad the perfect treat at lunchtime.  But for some reason I haven't made them much since I moved to TN which means Bo hadn't really tried any of them.  He will be trying them now.  I can see these being on our lunch rotation many times as the weather gets warmer.

If you decide to try this feel free to be creative.  Don't like black beans?  Use a different kind.  Mix up the veggies.  Add a grain and take out the corn.  Have some fun with the herbs and spices.

And don't worry.  I'm sure I will be back to post more of my creations!

Bean and Corn Salad

1 1/2 cups frozen corn (or as the season warrants, fresh!)
15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed well
1 shallot diced and soaked in 2 T lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, tops cut off and diced
(feel free to remove the seeds, I like to keep them in)
1/2 small red or green pepper, top cut off, seeds removed and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 - 1 1/2 T fruity or spicy olive oil
1 - 1 1/2 T honey
2 T lime juice
Salt and black pepper to taste

Drain the shallot.  Thaw the corn then toss with beans, shallot, garlic, both peppers and cilantro.  In a small bowl mix the oil, honey and lime juice.  Add to the bean salad and toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, March 12, 2012

White Cheddar Polenta with Sauteed Greens and Garlic-Roasted Portobellos

After you say the mouthful that is this recipe then open wide to take a big bite.  Go ahead.  Do it.  You'll be glad you did!

I can remember a time in my cooking career when I would buy the polenta in a tube.  Then I met some lovely cooking friends who taught me the beauty, and ease, of fresh cooked.  The tiny bit of effort is worth it for the creamy goodness presented on the plate.  If you want to eat firm polenta it is quite easy to make in advance, let firm then fry or grill.

But back to this recipe.  Besides the amazing polenta you are getting fabulous meaty mushrooms sizzled with garlic paired nicely with the bite of greens.

White Cheddar Polenta would be a great side dish served with shrimp, but it will also make a hearty vegetarian main dish.

White Cheddar Polenta with Sauteed Greens and Garlic-Roasted Portobellos (Recipe by Epicurious)
  • 3 medium portobello mushrooms
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup (packed) grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard, ribs cut away, leaves cut in 3x1-inch strips
  • 1 10-ounce bag fresh spinach leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F. Oil 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely; place in prepared baking dish. Using small spoon, scrape away dark gills from underside of mushrooms and discard. Cut each mushroom cap into 8 wedges; add to baking dish with chopped mushroom stems. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Sprinkle with 1 minced garlic clove, parsley, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake until tender, 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 4 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low. Cook until polenta thickens and begins to pull away from sides of pan, whisking often, about 25 minutes for polenta or 15 minutes for yellow cornmeal. Whisk in butter, then cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and sauté 30 seconds. Add Swiss chard and spinach and sauté until tender but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon polenta onto plates. Top with greens and portobello mushrooms.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Black Bean and Mushroom Chili

With some recipes you really find your self at a loss for words, and I would classify this chili as one of those receips.  The combination of ingredients are not to be believed - beans and mushrooms combine for an earthy feel while the mustard seeds add an unexpected surprise of flavor you don't normally find in a bean soup.

Then there is the added bonus of it being prepared in the crockpot.  Get it ready, press go and dinner will be ready when you get home.

Bo loves most soups served with rice (as opposed to cornbread like I usually want with chili) but this is such a hearty offering that I think it goes perfectly well with a short-grain brown rice.

Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili (Adapted from Eating Well) 
  • 1 pound dried black beans, (2 1/2 cups), rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, or ground cumin
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces tomatillos, husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Monterey Jack, or pepper Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  1. Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water. (Alternatively, place beans and 2 quarts water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain the beans, discarding soaking liquid.
  2. Combine oil, mustard seeds, chili powder and cumin in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Place over high heat and stir until the spices sizzle, about 30 seconds. Add onions, mushrooms, tomatillos and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are juicy, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and stir often until the juices evaporate and the vegetables are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth, tomato paste and chipotles; mix well.
  3. Place the beans in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the hot vegetable mixture over the beans. Turn heat to high. Put the lid on and cook until the beans are creamy, 5 to 8 hours.
  4. Garnish each serving with cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup

I love making soup in the winter.  You can make tons to freeze for easy lunches or dinners and most soups taste even better if you make them ahead.

Their one fault?  They don't photograph well.  Or at least I dont possess the skills to photograph them well.  So I gave up with this one because each picture looked worse than the one before and I didn't want anything making it look bad in your eyes, because it is a fabulous soup.

If you have never had lemongrass you are in for a treat.  The best way I can think to describe it is "fresh".  Yes, a stale word I know, but it really does grab the essence.  Think fresh mowed grass.  Or fresh ocean breeze.  Freshly air-dried laundry.

You get the picture.

If you don't like spicy food you can leave out the chiles altogether and still have an amazing chicken soup.  I served it (several times) over brown rice and it was a hit each and every time.

Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup (Adapted from Ming Tsai)

1 tablespoon canola oil
4 lemongrass stalks, pale parts only, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1 medium onion, chopped 
1-2 serrano or Thai chiles, stemmed and chopped
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1 cup frozen green peas
6 cups low-sodium canned chicken broth
1 cup light coconut milk (or use the whole can if you like a creamy soup)
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the lemongrass, stir, and sweat it, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Add the onions and chiles, if using, and sauté, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chicken and sauté until opaque, about 1 minute. Add the fish sauce, peas and broth, stir, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced slightly to intensify its flavor, 15 to 20 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk, spinach and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve over brown rice.