Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blueberry Buttermilk Waffles

My recent Sunday Morning Oatmeal post really gave me the gusto I needed to make a Big Girl breakfast this past weekend. As delicious as the oatmeal is, here's a REAL weekend breakfast for you.
Buttermilk Waffle recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking:
2 cups all-purpose flour
Sift the flour together with:
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp salt
In a separate bowl:
2 eggs- beat together with a fork
Then add:
1 and 3/4 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons melted butter
Combine the liquid and the dry ingredients and mix until just Incorporated- will be slightly lumpy, don't over mix. In the meantime, I preheated the waffle iron and got some blueberries out of the freezer- I used about one cup total. Whenever blueberries are on sale, I buy a bunch and freeze them. Freezing them yourself (don't do it while they are wet from washing) doesn't give you that freezer-crystally texture like the ones you buy already frozen for some reason. I much prefer to do it myself.
I sprayed the waffle iron with non-stick spray between each one and then measured approximately 1/3 cup of batter onto the iron. I gave it a second or two to ooze and spread out before sprinkling a handful of berries evenly over the top. I've found that mixing the berries directly into the bowl with the batter results in a clump of squished berries at the very middle of the cooked waffle. They don't' get a chance to spread out before you crush them with the iron.
Meanwhile I made a blueberry syrup with some fresh blueberries pushing their prime in the fridge. My mother-in-law Claudia always makes a blueberry syrup with blueberry waffles and I love it.
Fresh Blueberry Syrup:
1 heaping cup fresh blueberries
pinch of lemon zest (zest of about half the lemon)
juice of 1/2 a lemon 3 tablespoons sugar 1/4 cup maple syrup
3 or 4 tablespoons of water
Combine the ingredients into a saucepan and boil over med heat until the berries burst and the syrup begins to thicken slightly. (maybe 10 minutes total) I then set it aside to cool some while I finished cooking the waffles. I like to keep the serving plates and the cooked waffles warm in the oven while I finish the batch- I think this recipe made 5 waffles total.
Half way through the waffle griddling I thought to toss some pecan pieces into the batter. We taste tested both the plain blueberry and the blueberry pecan and the pecan were absolutely better in my opinion. I won't forget them next time. We served the waffles with a little bit of butter and the warm blueberry syrup. John is partial to his Log Cabin maple syrup so he added a little bit more of that over the top as well.
And a little Accidental Syrup....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Sauteed Kale and White Beans

This was a fast, budget friendly weeknight meal that I must say I really REALLY enjoyed. We don't eat much red meat during the week. I usually default to pasta, chicken, fish, pork every once in a while. The Spring-like weather had me in a grilling mood and I thought of flat iron steak because my mom was hooked on this particular cut last summer. They are thin so they marinate and grill up fast but if cooked correctly are still quite tender. I found a simple flank steak marinade recipe with lots of great reviews on so I decided to give it a try. Marinade: 1/3 cup red wine 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce 3 cloves of garlic- pressed a handful of fresh parley- chopped pinch of kosher salt and some freshly cracked black pepper I mixed the ingredients directly into a large ziplock bag and then dropped in one flat iron steak, approximately one pound total, sealed it well and then squished it all around to coat the steak evenly. I set it into a baking dish and refrigerated for 45 mins to 1 hour. In the meantime I started to prepare the quick saute of Greens and White Beans, another recipe that jumped out at me. I chose Kale because its one of my favorites and it cooks relatively quickly. Sauteed Kale and White Beans: 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 bunch of kale, cleaned, center ribs removed, torn into pieces 2 cups of fresh arugula 3/4 cup chicken stock 1-15 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. 1-2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar I heated the olive oil for one minute over medium heat in a large skillet (you'll want one with a lid) and then toasted the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes for just about one minute. I added the greens to the pan and immediately tossed them together with the garlic and oil. You want to be sure that the garlic doesn't sit at the very bottom of the pan or it will burn. As soon as the greens were wilted, I added the chicken stock, a little bit at a time, covering the pan to steam the greens. This took about 8-10 minutes total, adding a few splashes of stock every couple of minutes. You don't want it to be soupy but you need enough liquid to create steam. As soon as the greens were tender, I added the white beans and the arugula - gently mixing everything into the kale mixture to avoid smashing the beans. The arugula wilts in a matter of seconds, adding a little extra flavor to the dish. As soon as the beans were heated through and the liquid was mostly absorbed, I added the vinegar and some salt and pepper- cooking everything two minutes longer while gently mixing together. Note: the reduced stock gives it lots of flavor so you don't need too much additional salt. I set the greens and beans aside, barely covered with a lid to keep warm while John grilled the steak. I removed the steak from the marinade and patted somewhat dry with a few paper towels. This helps to create a caramelized sear on the meat as it grills. John grilled the steak for about 3-4 minutes per side and then we let it rest for 10 minutes, tented with tin foil, before slicing it on a diagonal. The soy sauce in the marinade helps to tenderize the meat while flavors of the red wine and garlic are absorbed. For a super simple marinade and only 45 minutes or so of soak time, the steak was incredibly flavorful. The kale and white beans were the perfect compliment- I could make a meal of them alone actually. John and I happily ate left overs again the next night. Thank you once again, Epicurious, for a fantastic meal. All for just about $10 in groceries!
With dinner we enjoyed a new wine that we sampled at the Food and Wine festival last weekend. I picked it up at Whole Foods that very day. It is a Yali Cabernet/Carmenere blend from Chile - priced at $8.99. I'm not an expert but I would say it is full bodied with some spice to it- it worked really well with this meal.

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Apple-Cucumber Salsa

I'm finally recovering fromthe shock of losing Gourmet magazine this year and I've really warmed to my monthly edition of Food and Wine magazine. (I'm getting Bon Appetit as well, in place of Gourmet, which is also great.) I find that the articles are extremely interesting and well written- I actually end up reading it cover to cover instead of just skimming through to the recipes. The March issue featured tons of healthy ethnic dishes which all look delicious. Everyone is trying to shed a few winter pounds right about now and as the weather warms, lighter, fresher foods are working their way back into the meal rotation. I particularly loved the "Mexican Favorites Made Healthy" section this month. I immediately dog-eared the Chipotle Rubbed Salmon Tacos with Apple-Cucumber Salsa recipe. When it came time to give it a try however, the salmon didn't look fantastic at the store so we successfully substituted shrimp instead. I made a few changes to the recipe and it made two generous servings (4 tacos). Shrimp Taco Ingredients: 3/4 pound medium-large shrimp (peeled and deveined) 1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder 1 tsp orange zest 1 1/2 tsp sugar 1 hass avocado (mashed just before serving) 4 taco-size flour tortillas (not the tiny fajita size, not the burrito size, somewhere in between) 2 tablespoons sour cream juice of half a lime Apple-Cucumber Salsa: 1/2 granny smith apple (diced) 1/4 of an English cucumber (diced) 2 green onions, green and white parts (thinly sliced) 1/3 of a yellow bell pepper (diced) 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 3/4 tsp sugar one tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After cleaning the shrimp, I tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil and a mixture of the chipotle chili powder, sugar, and orange zest. The sugar is there to balance out some heat and the orange zest really stood out to me while I was eating as another layer of flavor. I then placed them in a baking dish and set aside while I prepared the salsa. You simply dice the fruit/veggies, dress with the vinegar, sugar, cilantro (omit if you're not a fan) and toss it all together in a bowl. You might be skeptical about the cucumber and apple combination but I agree with Deborah Schneider, the recipe's author, that the crunch factor is absolutely excellent and the flavors work really well to cool your mouth down from the heat of the chipotle. The shrimp roast quickly (6-8 minutes) in the oven. (I decided to roast the shrimp versus cook them in a skillet on the stove because I wanted to avoid any "seafood" smells while we are showing our house. Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid but better safe than to repel a potential buyer with potent food smells of any kind.) I wrapped the tortillas in tin foil and placed them in the oven to warm at the same time. Meanwhile, I mixed the sour cream and lime juice in a small bowl to make a tangy crema for drizzling over the tacos as well. The shrimp are finished when they are no longer translucent and somewhat firm to the touch- careful not to over do it or they become rubbery. I quickly mashed the avocado in a small bowl and then shmeared it inside each of the four tortillas. I then divided the shrimp amongst the four tacos and topped them generously with the salsa mixture- lastly drizzling with the lime crema.
As I mentioned, the chipolte definitely kicks in some serious heat but the cool crunchy salsa and the sour cream work nicely to balance it out. The recipe called also for some shredded cabbage which would have been a nice touch-but I accidentally left it off of the grocery list. Definitely a great recipe as the weather gets warmer! I'm excited to try them with the salmon next time too.

Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola

This past weekend was Charleston's Annual Wine and Food Festival. It is a weekend packed full of fantastic events- themed wine tastings, cooking demos, and all of the city's best restaurants feature guests chefs from around the country and special five course menus. It's a foodie's paradise really. Unfortunately, its so popular that all of the events sell out virtually the minute the schedule comes out. Sadly, John and I didn't get out to any of the smaller events but we did make it downtown Sunday afternoon to the expo with friends Morgan and Guy. After almost 3 hours of sampling small bites from all of Charleston's favorite eateries and countless sips of wine from all over the world, it was home to the couch and a movie. We weren't hungry for dinner exactly after indulging earlier in the day, but we were inspired to create a scrumptious late night snack. Artichokes are one of my favorite Spring veggies and sure enough Whole Foods had a beautiful display of them this week. I love them simply steamed whole with drawn lemon butter on the side but John and I discovered Giada De Laurentiis's recipe for Baked Artichokes with Gorgonzola a year or so ago and we haven't turned back. I abbreviated the recipe slightly, making only two artichokes, one for each of us. The ingredients are as follows: 2 whole artichokes- stems, outer leaves removed with a knife the pointy tips of the leaves snipped off with kitchen shears 1 and one half lemons- quartered 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese 1 small clove of garlic- minced pinch of dried thyme 3 tablespoons of crumbled gorgonzola 2 tablespoons of butter cut into tiny pieces I placed a medium sized sauce pan filled 1/3 of the way with water over high heat until boiling. I squeezed four of the lemon quarters into the water, tossing the wedges in too. I then added the artichokes and a generous sprinkle of kosher salt, covered the pan and turned the heat down to med-low. I steamed/boiled the artichokes for 30 minutes, checking periodically to be sure that it didn't boil dry. (If the water gets low, just add more.) In the meantime I prepared a crumb mixture- combining the panko, garlic, thyme, some salt and pepper, and the parmesan cheese with a drizzle of olive oil. I also preheated my oven to 400 degrees. The artichokes are done as soon as you can pull a leaf out without much effort. I drained them and as soon as they were cool enough to handle, I spread the leaves outward (careful not to pull them off completely), exposing the soft, purply-white leave in the very middle. I find its easiest to use tongs to pluck them out of the center per the picture below. Below them, there is a fuzzy layer covering the heart of the artichoke. I plucked that layer out with tongs as well. You're left with all of the good stuff- the hearty leaves with delectable meat at the ends and the heart. While the choke is still "open," I put one tablespoon of butter and half the gorgonzola into the center of each. I then sprinkle the crumb mixture both into the cavities and also in between the outer leaves as. This gives you some of the savory, crunchy yumminess with each bite. I placed them in a baking dish and baked for 25 minutes until the crumbs started to look golden brown.
I squeezed another quarter of a lemon over each just before digging in. You start with the outer leaves- pulling them off and dunking them into your own private dipping sauce of melted buttery cheese in the middle- scraping the meaty goodness of the ends with your teeth. (You discard the rest of the leaf.) Once you make it down to the heart- or the jackpot if you will- just cut it up into bite sized pieces and enjoy!
These are really really fabulous... A great first course, you could even do one artichoke for every two people in a casual setting- or as we did, they make a nice "light" dinner with a side salad or some crusty bread. In this case they were the perfect ending to a decadently delicious day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops with Roasted Broccoli

Browsing online for an easy dinner recipe requiring few ingredients other than those already in the pantry/fridge, I stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen's Crunchy Baked Pork Chops. She borrowed the recipe from Cooks Illustrated so I knew it had to be good. Cooks Illustrated is the Bible of cooking magazines in my opinion- its expensive though (there are no advertisements in it) so I actually don't have a subscription at the moment. I took a few short cuts based on what I had on hand. I adapted the recipe as follows: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (for both the pork and broccoli) 3 boneless center cut pork chops, each about 1 inch thick 1/2 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 2 cloves of garlic- pressed 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 2 eggs 1 tsp dijon mustard Beat the egg with the dijon mustard in a shallow dish. Mix the bread crumbs, pressed garlic, and parmesan cheese in another dish. Dredge each chop first in the seasoned flour, second in the egg wash and lastly coat them in the crumb mixture. You want to press the chops into the bread crumbs to ensure you have a thick coating on all sides. Place the chops on a baking sheet (lined with foil for easy clean-up), drizzle with olive oil to help the crumbs toast and set aside. Roasted Broccoli is all the rage these days so I decided to give it a try. Tyler, Ina, and just about every cooking mag I read has raved about it over the past year or so and for good reason I tell you. I took notes from Ina Garten's recipe on this one: 3 bunches of broccoli (mine were fairly small) 3 cloves of garlic- minced Juice and zest of 1 large lemon 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese Olive oil, salt and pepper I cleaned the broccoli and sliced it into spears, trying to keep them approximately the same size. I made sure to dry the broccoli as much as possible with a few paper towels which helps it to caramelize and brown versus just steam and get soggy in the oven. I arranged it on a baking sheet, drizzled with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. I then tossed it together with the minced garlic and until evenly coated. The broccoli and pork went into the oven the same time. I set the timer for 17 mins and then watched the pork closely from there until just cooked through to medium (150 degrees by a meat thermometer). I think I let mine go 19 mins total. There is nothing worse than a dry, overcooked pork chop so watch carefully! I removed the pork and continued to cook the broccoli another 5 or 6 minutes while the pork rested. Right as the broccoli came out of the oven, I sprinkled it with the parmesan cheese, the lemon juice and zest - tossing it all together. I served the pork and broccoli together with another squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top of everything. The crunchy, garlicky crust of the pork worked perfectly with the toasty lemony-garlic flavors of the broccoli. Roasting it really gives it a depth of flavor you just can't get from steaming it. It tastes like a whole different vegetable. Besides, broccoli lover or not (it just so happens that I am) sprinkle parmesan and garlic on just about anything and its bound to be good. Smitten Kitchen used fresh bread crumbs and fresh parsley in the pork coating mixture and she toasts the mixture before coating the pork. I think the parsley would really be divine and honestly, toasting the crumb mixture would have taken a little of the bite off of the garlic which was fairly potent this go round. I will probably go that route next time even though it will add few minutes of prep time. Another yummy, quick, and inexpensive, weeknight meal that required very little by way of dirty pots/pans/dishes! I'd definitely reccomend...

Sunday Morning Oatmeal

Growing up, weekend breakfasts always consisted of waffles, pancakes, biscuits, bacon, eggs and the like. My Dad is a big fan of breakfast- in fact, he might be the biggest fan I know. Therefore just about every weekend of my childhood (and adult life for that matter) I wandered bleary eyed- trailing the scent of fresh coffee- into the kitchen in anticipation of a feast. I am proud to say that this sincere appreciation for all things griddled, scrambled and drizzled with maple syrup has since been passed down to me. So many a Saturday or Sunday morning when I ask John what he'd like to have for breakfast- I'm secretly disappointed when he says cereal . Not that I don't love cereal, but in the Cobetto house, cereal is for weekdays and weekdays only.
The perfect compromise of late is real, homemade oatmeal with all the fixins. (Not the instant stuff, that would fall into the weekday category as well.) Though it will never truly satisfy my big breakfast hankering is really hits the spot on a chilly Sunday morning.
I insist on starting with Old-Fashioned style oats (not the quick cooking kind) because it has a nice hearty chewyness to it. Anyone who claims they don't like oatmeal has likely only had the gluey, slimy quick cooking oats. I measure 1 and 3/4 cups of water into a sauce pan over high heat. When it reaches a boil, I add 1 cup of oatmeal and a small handful of dried cranberries, turning the heat down to low in the process. I like to add the cranberries at this point because they plump up a little bit in the cooking process.
While the oatmeal cooks (5-7 minutes or so, stirring every so often) I toast a handful of walnuts, pecans, almonds, whatever I have on hand in the toaster oven. I also like to slice up an apple, banana or in this case a pear as a topping as well. As soon as the oatmeal is tender but still has a bite to it, I finish it with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of milk to make it creamy. I know many people use all milk instead of water when cooking oatmeal, but for some reason I just don't like the flavor.
I serve the oatmeal in a bowl topped with the fruit, toasted nuts, a generous teaspoon of brown sugar, and a drizzle of maple syrup. I also splash a little more milk over the top as well.
I picked up some fresh pecan raisin bread from the Harris Teeter Sunday morning too. (I had to run in for milk.) It makes THE BEST toast you've ever had. I made a quick and easy honey butter to go with it. I started with two tablespoons of softened butter. Added one teaspoon of honey and a tiny pinch of cinnamon. I mashed it all together and then we spread it on the warm toast just before serving.