Sunday, April 27, 2008

Asian Chopped Salad - A Crowd Favorite

Confession: I have made the same salad three times this week for different guests and it's been a clear favorite every time! This Asian chopped salad recipe is from Pioneer Woman's "My Most Favorite Salad Ever," which she adapted from The Naked Chef's recipe. It is light, flavorful, and I think super healthy. The sesame oil and ginger dressing is light-tasting and goes well with the Asian vegetables. I omitted the garlic in the dressing and used maple-coated cashews from Whole Foods in the salad.


Asian Chopped Salad

Serves four as an entree salad

1 to 2 bunches of soba noodles, cooked, cooled.

Salad vegetables:
1/2 head of finely sliced napa cabbage
1/2 cup finely sliced purple cabbage
half red bell pepper, thinly sliced
half yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
half English hot house cucumber, sliced, quartered
1 cup mung bean sprouts, cleaned
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup cashews, maple coated or roasted
2 tablespoons sliced scallions

3 tablespoons finely minced ginger
8 tablespoons light olive oil
6 tablespoons soy sauce
A little less than 1/3 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1/2 hot serrano pepper, finely diced (remove seeds if you don't want it too spicy)

Combine vegetables, set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. The dressing makes quite a bit and can be kept for three days in the fridge.

Toss the vegetables with the dressing. Add the soba noodles if you want to make it a big salad. Or serve it this way, which I prefer:

Toss the salad vegetables with the dressing. Put some soba noodles on each plate. Spoon some salad over the soba noodles, drizzle with more dressing if necessary.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hot Off the Frying Pan - Jalapeno Poppers

The other day I was presented with six big jalapeño peppers. They were so fresh and perfect that the only right thing to do was to make jalapeño poppers. Surprisingly, this is one of the few on-the-fly recipes that I've made successfully! Sorry no pictures right now because we ate them quickly but here is the recipe:

Jalapeño Poppers

Six jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup shredded jack cheese or any mild cheese
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
fresh ground pepper
1 egg, beaten

all purpose flour
ice water

Cut the peppers half lengthwise, clean out the seeds completely - I recommend doing this wearing plastic gloves. Otherwise it could really irritate your skin. If you don't want ANY spice at all, you can cut off the inside membrane of the peppers as well.

In a small bowl, mix together the cheese, cilantro, parsley, garlic powder, and ground pepper until well combined. Pour in HALF of the beaten egg. Mash everything together.

In a shallow bowl, mix together a couple of tablespoons of all purpose flour with maybe 1/3 cup of ice water and the rest of the beaten egg. I don't have an exact recipe for this but just adjust the flour and ice water ratios until the mixture has the consistency of thick pancake batter.

In a sautee pan, heat about 1/4 inch of light olive oil over medium heat. Carefully dip the peppers into the batter and slide into the pan. Cover and fry for about five minutes or until one side is golden brown. Flip the peppers, uncover, and fry the otherside until lightly golden.

Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Broccolini with pine nuts -- and a super easy salad

So what else did Lori and I make when we deemed ourselves gourmet divas for a night? These side dishes are really easy but I will post them so I'll remember to make them again! I think Dijon mustard and honey would work well as an addition to the avocado and grapefruit salad next time...

Avocado and Grapefruit salad

1 ripe avocado
1 large grape fruit
2 to 3 tablespoons of very fruity olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut and segment the grapefruit. With the leftover grapefuit, squeeze about 1-2 tablespoons of juice in a small bowl, set aside.

Scoop out the avocado and cut into large chunks and mix lightly with the grapefruit segments.

In the small bowl with the grapefruit juice, whisk in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle dressing over grapefruit and avocado. Serve immediately.

Broccolini with pine nuts

1 bunch broccolini, washed and trimmed of tough parts
1/2 cup of diced pancetta (we used pancetta in this dish because we were also making pasta carbonara for dinner. But this dish would work if you just use one to two tablespoons of olive oil mixed with a tablespoon of butter).
2 tablespoons of pine nuts

Cook the pancetta over medium heat until crisp. Add the washed broccolini, cook until the broccolini is to your liking (I like it just crisp and wilted). Add some freshly ground pepper and the pine nuts. If you're not using the pancetta I would sprinkle this with some lemon juice.

Pasta Carbonara with Lori

Armed with an extremely small budget and a package of diced pancetta in the freezer, my friend Lori and I whipped up a dinner that made us really impressed with ourselves! Granted this was after a couple of glasses of our wonderful local Testarossa chardonnay, but I think it was a great menu, thanks to the awesome choices of produce that Lori brought from the farmer's market.

Our menu:
Pasta carbonara
Sauteed broccolini with pine nuts
Grape fruit and avocado salad (click here for recipes for the side dishes)

Pasta carbonara's sauce is made from a mixture of eggs and Parmesan cheese that cooks in the heat of the just-cooked pasta, so the eggs are not thoroughly cooked. Therefore it's important to use very fresh eggs in this dish and move quickly at the end so that the pasta is still hot enough to cook the eggs. I've seen many recipes that call for cream for this dish but it really isn't necessary.

This is not a low-fat dish but Lori had definitely deserved it after biking up several 45 degree hills to my house! And me, well, eh, anyway, here's the recipe.

Pasta Carbonara

three servings of angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti
two to three eggs - must be very fresh
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Parmesan Reggiano)
1 1/2 cup diced pancetta (Italian bacon - as opposed to American bacon, which is smoked.)
fresh ground black pepper

In a small pan, cook the pancetta over medium heat until pancetta is crisp and has released all its fat. Drain some of the fat, saving about one to two tablespoons (or more if you really love bacon fat but I am half-heartedly trying to watch what I eat. Really half-heartedly.)

Bring enough water to boil to cook the pasta. Throw in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7-10 minutes (you be the judge).

While the pasta is cooking, mix the eggs with the Parmesan cheese in a bowl.

As soon as the pasta is done, drain the pasta (save about a cup of pasta water in a bowl. Return the drained pasta to the still-hot pot, pour the egg-cheese mixture over the pasta immediately. Stir to combine. The egg-cheese mixture will thicken. Add a little of the pasta water you reserved if it looks too thick to you.

Add the pancetta to the pasta, mix well.

Serve immediately with freshly ground black pepper.