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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta

 I love cauliflower, so I grabbed a head of it at the grocery store without an exact plan.  I have my usual favorite cauliflower dish -  this Indian spiced cauliflower.  Yet I also enjoy just roasting it up with some salt and nutmeg as a side dish to just about anything.  If you've never tried roasting cauliflower because you do not like cauliflower, I recommend that you try it.  Roasting it brings out its sweetness as opposed to that funky cruciferous taste it can sometimes have.  You might be surprised that you actually like cauliflower.  So that was my vague plan...roasted cauliflower.  I decided to do just that, but instead of making it as a side dish, I added it to some penne pasta along with some crispy shallots, roasted garlic, and romano cheese.  I just created my new favorite pasta dish.

Roasted Cauliflower Pasta
serves 6

1 14 oz. box whole grain penne
1 head of garlic, the very top cut off so that the cloves are exposed
1 head of cauliflower, cut up into florets
3 Tbsp olive oil plus a bit more for roasting the garlic
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the garlic on a piece of tin foil and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Wrap it in the foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour.  Halfway into the garlic's cooking time, put the cauliflower on a parchment lined baking sheet and combine with 2 Tbsp of olive oil and some salt to your taste.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.  While the cauliflower and garlic roast, put your water on the stove to boil for the pasta.  Cook your pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the water.  Heat 1 Tbsp of butter and the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until they are a golden brown - about 8 minutes.  After your pasta is drained, return it to the pot.  Add the sauteed shallots, and roasted cauliflower.  Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skins (I like to use a fork or knife, but you can also squeeze them out.)  Add the garlic cloves to the pasta along with the romano cheese.  Combine everything together and add the pasta water until it has a desirable consistency.  Serve with some extra romano cheese and enjoy!

Hyper Smash

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sweet Pea Soup

It's October 29th and school was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.  I know there are some areas of the country that are undergoing serious amounts of damage right now.  The Tri-State area, where I have many friends and family, has shut down.  New York City has shut down public transportation - apparently the subways are bound to flood with salt water.  All bridges out of New Jersey have been closed.  New York City schools are closed for at least two days- an event that usually can only be caused by 30-feet of snow or an asteroid.    It seems surreal.  The worst we have up here north of Boston is some horizontal rain (at least for now I should say.)  In fact, Jim just went out to the store to get me some new bulbs of garlic - the ones he got me yesterday are gross and unusable.  So while he's off at the store, I'll blog the soup I made on this surprise day off from school...

I've actually never made pea soup before.  I wanted to make my favorite soup in the entire universe today - chicken lemon orzo soup - but the grocery store did not have thyme, which is absolutely essential.  I will need to share that recipe with you another time.  So instead I'm going to try out this very, very easy recipe - also from Ellie Kreiger who I love.  She cooks healthy, simple food and it almost always tastes amazing.  I just happened to have a bag of sweet peas in my freezer, so I'm making pea soup.  Now the recipe did not say "sweet peas" and since this is spur of the moment, I just did it.  I know that a pea soup recipe usually has split peas in it, which is a far cry from sweet peas.  This soup came out tasting like sweet peas.  I added the amount of salt that Ellie said to  - which is double what I normally add - to balance out the sweetness.  Also, I through some parmesan basil croutons on top which was a nice touch.  I like the soup, but I will say it was a little weird.  It felt like I was drinking peas.  But it was good enough with the cheesy croutons that I will make it again with non-sweet peas next time and see if that makes a difference.  I'll also make sure I have asiago bread on hand in place of croutons.

Sweet Pea Soup
from Ellie Kreiger
serves 6

15 oz frozen sweet peas (because that is all I had)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 3/4 low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp tarragon
1 tsp kosher salt
a few turns of fresh ground pepper
2 tsp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally - about 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the broth, tarragon, salt, and pepper, and turn the heat up to high.  Cook until it cook to a boil.  Then add the frozen peas.  Heat just until warmed through - about a minute.  Either transferring the soup to a blender in two batches (which is what I did) or using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  Put back on the stove and bring to a simmer, or chill in the fridge if you'd rather serve the soup cold.  I like my pea soup hot.  I put croutons on top, but you could also top this with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream as well.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mosaic Apple Tart

I saw this tart on Smitten Kitchen and just knew that I had to make it immediately for the following reasons:

1. It's beautiful and I love to eat with my eyes just as much as my mouth.
2. I have two big bags of apples that I just bought from Parlee Farm and are dying to be converted into an apple tart.
3. One of our favorite desserts to eat on a Sunday night is apple tart with vanilla bean ice cream.
4 (and the most fundamental). It has a salted caramel sauce - I repeat - a salted caramel sauce!!!  I am addicted to salted caramel anything.

It's not like I really need another reason to make an apple tart other than " tart!", but since I have so many, it is meant to be done.  This is much easier than it looks.  For the amount of effort and time that went into this, you get an exceptional looking product.  Also, the salted caramel glaze that goes on top of it is so good that I will make it over and over again just to put on top of other things or simply to eat with a spoon.  Trust. Me. On. This.

Mosaic Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Glaze
from Smitten Kitchen

14-oz package of puff pastry, defrosted
4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin (about 1/16-inch slices)
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the salted caramel glaze:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted cold butter
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Lay out the puff pastry on a large baking sheet rimmed with parchment paper.  You may need to trim it if you don't have a large enough pan.  Leaving a 1/2-inch border, fan the apples around the tart starting with the outside and spiraling your way inside, leaving about 3/4-inch of each apple slice peeking out of each overlapping apple slice.  Evenly dust with the 2 Tbsp of sugar and then spread the little cubes of butter over the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges of your tart begin to brown.  As it is cooking, if the tart begins to bubble up anywhere, simply poke it with a sharp knife to deflate any of these bubbles.

20 minutes into the bake time, begin to make your glaze.  Melt the rest of your sugar in a small saucepan on medium-high heat.  This will take about 3 minutes.  Cook the liquified sugar about another minute or two until it is a nice copper color.  Remove from the heat and add the butter and salt.  When the butter has melted, add the heavy cream and return to the stove over medium heat.  Cook another minute or two, stirring constantly, until it is a beautiful bronze color.  Set aside and after the tart has baked, brush your glaze over the top - including the exposed crust - careful not to mess up the apples.  If you're lucky, you'll have extra caramel sauce leftover.  I didn't and was so very sad.  Return the tart to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.  Let the tart cool completely before cutting it into squares.  Serve with vanilla ice cream and bon appetit!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

White Bean, Potato, and Kale Soup

Another week has passed and it's Soup Sunday again.  Today I decided to mix it up with some kale since I had some on hand anyway.  I've been using kale in the green smoothie lately - it works just as well as spinach and is even more packed with nutrients.  So let's try it in soup too!  I went with white beans instead of lentils and used yukon gold potatoes to add some body.  This is my first time throwing this particular combination of ingredients together and I think it came out great.  I look forward to having it for lunch tomorrow.

White Bean, Potato, and Kale Soup
serves 6

1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
3 yukon gold potatoes, washed, skin-on, chopped into about 1-1/2 to 2-inch cubes
1 15-oz can cannelini or white beans
4 cups chopped kale, large stems removed
2 Tbsp olive oil

In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, celery, onion, garlic and saute until softened - about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a medium boil and add the potatoes.  Cook until potatoes are tender - about 30 minutes.  I actually like to overdo the potatoes a little so that some fall apart and make the soup a little thicker.  Add the beans and kale and bring back to a boil.  Cook another 10 minutes until the greens are tender.  Serve with some crusty bread.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mushroom Lentil Soup

You are going to get a lot of soups from me for awhile.  In the fall and winter (which basically last until May here in New England), I love to make a big pot of soup on the weekend, and bring it for lunch during the week.   And who doesn't love soup on a cold day?  Well that weather is here for sure.  Last week, I made this chicken escarole soup - an Italian wedding soup without the meatballs - because I had a terrible cold which required the healing power of homemade chicken stock.  Well today, we woke up to the patter of raindrops on the air conditioning still hanging out of our windows - which is quite possibly one of the most relaxing sounds in the world - but unfortunate when you had planned to go to an outdoor pumpkin festival.  It rained all morning - that cold, chill-you-to-the-bone fall rain.  So since we weren't going pumpkin picking anymore, I decided to make this soup.  It's basically a mushroom barley soup with lentils instead of barley.  It is easy to throw together and truly delicious, healthy, and comforting.  It has thyme, which is my favorite herb to put in soup.  I always put it in with the vegetables because as soon as it hits the hot pan, I am transported to heaven.  If this happens to you as well, enjoy your trip.

Mushroom Lentil Soup
makes 6-8 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
8 oz chopped mushrooms (you can use any type -  used baby bellas today)
1 heaping cup of brown or French lentils, picked through and rinsed
1 cup chopped tomatoes with their juices
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
5 oz. baby spinach, torn or chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, celery, carrot, and thyme and stir occasionally until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushroom and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until the mushroom have released all of their moisture.  Add the lentils, broths, tomatoes, and red wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a low boil or simmer and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked.  When the lentils are cooked, add the spinach and cook for a minute or two more until the spinach is cooked.  Serve with a sprinkle of romano cheese and some crusty bread and enjoy!

 Excuse my filthy stove...the consequences of cooking

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Green Smoothie

All aboard the green smoothie train!  Seriously, I never thought I would be making green smoothies.  I have always made smoothies for breakfast on weekday mornings.  They are easy and portable.  You can get them ready as you get yourself ready for work in the morning and then drink them on the ride in.  It's a no-brainer for me.  It's either a smoothie, or Starbucks for breakfast - which I try desperately to avoid at all costs.  It may not be McDonalds, but it's still fast food and packed with sodium, fat, and preservatives.

Another great thing about a smoothie is it gets in many of your servings of fruits (and yes, now vegetables!)  I used to make our morning smoothies with yogurt, milk, variations of berries, mango, and pineapple, banana, and flax seed.  Now I still use the same fruits and flax seed, but have replaced the yogurt and milk with some sweetened coconut milk (it's only 90 calories and 5 grams of the good kind of fat), and have added spinach and apple.

I love this smoothie - so much more than my original.  It's also a great way to get some leafy greens into my two year old.  She won't touch anything leafy, but she will suck down an entire cup of this concoction.  I still haven't won Jim over to the dark leafy green side.  He likes the old smoothies better, but I think deep down inside he knows that this is tasty - and packed with many of the nutrients we need in our daily diets.  Don't be scared to try this like I was for so long.  I wish I had gotten on the green smoothie train sooner.  I thought I would need a better blender to make it, but one day I finally threw the spinach in there, and my cheap-o blender did the job just fine.  It doesn't hurt to try.  I plan to use kale instead of spinach tomorrow.  We'll see how that goes over with Jim.

Green Smoothie
makes 2+ servings

2 cups sweetened coconut milk
2 big handfuls of any leafy greens (I have only used spinach at this point)
2 cups fruit of your choice (I used strawberries and pineapple)
1 banana, peeled
1 apple, cored and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp ground flax seed

Put the greens into your blender first.  Now add all your other ingredients and blend until smooth.

 A days worth of fruit and a serving of leafy greens - not too shabby for minimal work and clean up.
 It tastes better than it looks.  If you use blueberries, it will be an even more appetizing blackish green.
Mommy and daughter green smoothies.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Chicken Escarole Soup

It's really hard to get over a cold when you are constantly on the go - working, caring for a child, going to school, etc. etc. etc.  There is no time to let the body rest and fight off whatever it is that is making my head feel like it is a bag of hay.  I can't breath and it hurts to talk - a little tough to get through the day teaching - unless I don't talk to the students.  As much as I'd like to sometimes not do that, it is impossible.  I think I talk more in any given day than most.  I also make more decisions on an given day - more than an air-traffic controller in about stressful.  I love my job, but when I feel this sick, I can't be an effective teacher.  Time to take a day and try to rest up as much as possible - give my body a chance to heal before it's too late.  So yesterday I did just that - stayed in bed, drank lots of tea, and made Jim's grandmother's chicken escarole soup - which is all I need to feel twenty times better.  I put the soup up in the morning, took some pictures during the process, drank a butt-load of tea, and then ate soup for the rest of the day.  After a day of drinking lots of anti-oxidant packed fluids and leafy-green filled soup, I feel much, much better.

One year for Christmas, one of Jim's aunt's gave everyone in the family a book of his grandmother's recipes.  It is a treasure, allowing Grammy's spirit and the Centrella traditions to continue to live on in our kitchen.  Considering the fact that Grammy didn't use recipes or measuring devices, I think I did the soup justice.  Read past the picture for my version...

Chicken Escarole Soup

1 whole cut up chicken, skin and visible fat removed
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
2 yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, unpeeled and cut horizontally in half
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 head escarole, chopped and rinsed well
3 eggs, scrambled lightly
2 Tbsp grated romano cheese
1 cup tiny pasta (I recommend the teeny tiny pearl-like pasta)

Put the first eight ingredients into a large stock pot. (I do not have a big enough stock pot, because after all is cooked and done, I always wish there was more broth - it needs it.  One day, I need to invest in a ginormous stock pot.  Maybe I'll ask for it for Christmas this year.)  Fill the pot with water - everything should be covered, but the more water, the better.  Bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a low simmer.  For the first 15 minutes of the cooking process, be sure to diligently skim the froth off the top of the surface.  Continue to cook for at least 3 hours, skimming occassionally.  If the water level gets too low, add more water.  When it is done cooking, place a large mesh strainer over another pot and layer with unfolded coffee filters.  Strain the soup into the pot.  Take the cooked chicken and pick through and shred the meat, discarding the fat and bones.  Cut up the cooked carrots, celery, and onions.  Return the chicken and vegetables to the pot of strained broth and bring back to a boil.  While waiting for the soup to return to a boil, prepare your escarole.  Add it to the boiling soup and cook until tender - about 5 minutes.  Combine the eggs and cheese and add the boiling soup in a slow stream while whisking so as to form the stracciatella (Italian egg drop.)  Lastly, add the pasta and cook as per the directions on the box.

Serve with some extra romano cheese and some crusty bread.  You must make this soup at some point or at many points this fall and winter.  You won't regret it.  I'm going to start calling this soup the cold crusher.