February 13, 2017

Portuguese Style Tuna Salad





Ingredients:

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 lb potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used Yukon Gold)
4 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives in oil, drained
12 oz good quality canned tuna (drained if in water--see thoughts)
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork-tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool to closer to room temperature. Add the chickpeas, eggs, tuna, onion and olive and toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hr prior to serving.

My thoughts:
When we were in Portugal (where I wish I was right now, I torture myself by checking Lisbon's weather every day) we ate at two different restaurants that specialized in canned seafood. Both were amazing! The Portuguese take their canned fish very seriously and what they do with it is amazing. I'm still dreaming of the octopus croquettes I had at Can de Can. Like here, canned tuna (alum in Portuguese) is very popular and sold either in slices or in salads like this one. It is normally tuna packed in olive oil, but that can be more difficult to find here so for ease of replication, I used wild-caught skipjack tuna I bought in pouches (Safe Catch Elite) and added olive oil. If you do have access to good, Portuguese (or Italian) tuna, feel free to use that and skip the extra olive oil. I actually still have a few cans of seafood I brought back from Portugal thanks to the long expiration dates of canned goods that I'm still hoarding. I'll be sad when they are gone.

Nearly every meal we ate in Portugal consisted of a. seafood b. boiled potatoes c. some sort of green vegetable. Before each meal, they bring you bread, canned seafood spreads, cheese/butter/oil, croquettes and olives that you have to refuse if you don't want but are cheap (a euro or so) if you keep them. This is sort of the salad version of that: tuna, boiled potatoes, olives and hard boiled eggs. Simple yet very satisfying. It is a lovely dinner and the leftovers make a great lunch as it is good slightly warm (if the potatoes are freshly cooked) or chilled. I actually like it better after it has been chilled as the flavors meld.



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February 10, 2017

Vaguely Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta Salad


Ingredients:
2 lb freshly steamed, peeled shrimp, halved
1 carrot, diced
1/4 cup halved Kalamata olives
1 seedless cucumber, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta
10 oz cooked, small pasta

for the dressing:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Toss. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat and evenly distribute all ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 1 day prior to serving.

My thoughts:
My husband's class schedule changed this summer and he is now working from home two days a week which means we are eating an early lunch before he goes to an afternoon class, then he is back for a while and we have dinner before he heads out to another class. One day a week he goes to class directly from work and packs both lunch and dinner. All of this school really poses some challenges when it comes to meal planning! This semester is working out the best, I've been making a "big" meal for lunch (with leftovers for the next day lunch) and then something lighter for dinner that preferably can be taken for the next day's dinner. Since he has limited time and can't heat any food for dinner, we've been having a lot of fun sandwiches with goodies from the Italian market or cold salads like this one.

I've made a ton of pasta salads over the years so I am always trying to mix it up a bit. This time I went vaguely Greek. No tomatoes because they are out of season (and make pasta salads soggy) but yummy cucumbers, red onion, Kalamata olives and feta for a vaguely Mediterranean twist.  I added the celery and carrots for extra crunch and to make it more of a complete, one-bowl meal. It was delicious the first day and just as good the next day after being refrigerated. Just take care to thoroughly drain the pasta and olives to avoid soggy salad.


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February 08, 2017

Spicy Old Bay "Popcorn" Cauliflower


Ingredients:
1 small to medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 cup panko
3-4 tablespoons Old Bay
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Beat the eggs together with the hot sauce until fluffy.

Place the cauliflower in a small bowl. Pour the beaten eggs over the cauliflower and toss to thoroughly coat. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the panko and spices. Dredge the cauliflower in the panko mixture and arrange in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes or until crisp.



My thoughts:
If you can have popcorn shrimp and popcorn chicken then why not popcorn cauliflower? It is a fun change from the regular steamed or roasted cauliflower and it is nearly as easy. I served it as a side dish but it would also make a great snack or appetizer. We like spice so I made the eggs extra spicy with lots of very hot, hot sauce and loaded the breading with Old Bay. Feel free to tone down the spice for tamer palates.

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February 06, 2017

Guava Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz (brick) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 oz guava paste (goiabada)
1/4 cup water


Ingredients:

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer until smooth. Add sugar, and continue to beat until fluffy and well incorporated. Add egg and vanilla paste, and beat until incorporated. Stream in dry ingredients, and mix until combined.

Scoop tablespoons of dough and roll in your hands to form into balls, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. If the dough is very sticky, refrigerate it 10-15 minutes prior to rolling into balls.


Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the guava paste in a small pot with water, stirring occasionally until the guava paste is of preserves-consistency and smooth. This should take about 10 minutes. Keep on very low heat until the filling of the cookies is completely finished.


Remove from oven, and make indentations in centers by pressing with your thumb or use the back of a spoon. Fill with guava. Return to oven, and bake an additional 5-8 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies on the parchment paper sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.


My thoughts:
I had some leftover guava paste (easily found in the "Latin" or "International" section of the grocery store either in plastic or in a tin) that I had served with cheese for one of our "snackies" dinners and didn't know what to do with it. It is super tasty also very thick and sticky so it wasn't like I was just going to spread it on bread and call it a day. Guava paste and cheese is a classic combination and one of my favorite uses of it, pastelitos, combines cream cheese and guava paste in a flaky turnover. So good but a little fussy and trickier to pack for lunches which was one of my goals. So I took that idea and transformed it into these easy, very portable thumbprint cookies. The cookie is very tender (and slightly craggy) thanks to the cream cheese. The guava paste took forever to melt (okay, like 10 minutes) but when it did, it was the perfect consistency for spooning into the cookies. Pro-tip: the guava paste is basically molten sugar at this point so use two spoons (one to scoop and one to scrape the guava goo off the other spoon) to fill the cookies if it doesn't drip off the spoon easily--I had to do this for the second batch because even on low, the paste started to thicken up again. The end result is a not-too sweet cookie that is full of juicy guava flavor and mellow cream cheese cookie.

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February 01, 2017

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni & Cheese



Ingredients:

2 cups whole milk, at room temperature
2 cup shredded Buffalo wing flavored cheddar*
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons superfine flour
1/3 cup bread crumbs
5 oz crumbled blue cheese
12 oz small pasta like macaroni or cavatappi, cooked
8 oz sliced, cooked chicken breast
Buffalo wing sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 2-quart baking dish.


In a medium pan, melt the butter. Add the flour along with salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Add the milk and evaporated milk and whisk together until slightly thickened. Whisk in the cheddar until smooth.

Meanwhile, toss the chicken with wing sauce if desired. Stir into the cheese.


Pour over the drained pasta; stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Spoon in half of the pasta mixture into a lightly oiled 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle half of the blue cheese over the pasta in an even layer. Add remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining blue cheese in an even layer.


Top with bread crumbs. Bake covered 20 minutes, then uncover and cook until hot and bubbly, about 15-20 additional minutes. Serve with additional wing sauce, if desired.

Yield: about 4-6 meal sized servings, 8-10 side dish sized servings



*I used an 8 oz brick of Cabot Hot Buffalo Wing Cheddar Cheese

My thoughts:
After writing my cookbook, Cooking with Frank's RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce: Delicious Recipes That Bring the Heat, I really haven't made anything Buffalo wing related. After making 6(?) different types of wings in a single afternoon, I've been a bit winged-out. Then I saw this Cabot Buffalo Wing cheddar and knew I had to break my Buffalo wing fast and make not wings but mac and cheese!

The cheese is rubbed with sauce so while it is spicy, it isn't so crazy spicy like it could be-the inside is regular cheddar. You can, of course, up the spice by adding some cayenne to the flour when you stir that in, or swirling some wing sauce in when you add the milk.

In some areas, I think people serve wings with ranch but we are firmly in blue cheese dressing territory so I layered in some blue cheese crumbles and then topped it with more blue cheese and bread crumbs for the topping. This way you get a hit of blue cheese flavor but the macaroni and cheese is still super creamy and smooth.

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January 30, 2017

Watermelon Radish and Cara Cara Orange Salad





Ingredients:

1 large (like tennis ball sized) watermelon radish, thinly sliced
2 Cara Cara oranges, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons Prosecco vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Toss the radish, orange and feta together in a small bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly distribute. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I love getting the local box in our weekly produce delivery. Winter can be sort of depressing produce wise in the mid-Atlantic but this week they had my favorite kind radish: watermelon! I admit, the pretty color is a good bit of the appeal but as my husband pointed out, it starts out sweet and then has that peppery radish bite. This makes them a great candidate for salads like this one. The favor is a wonderful contrast with the sweet Cara Cara oranges and the dressing and cheese add a salty, savory note. A great winter salad that stands up to richer foods.

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January 26, 2017

Za'atar Chicken Thighs with Potatoes and Onions


Ingredients:

8 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 lb)
2-3 tablespoons Za'atar
1 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
2 medium onions, cut into large wedges
superfine flour (like Wondra)
salt
freshly ground black pepper


Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.
Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet. Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray a 8x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with Za'atar, salt and pepper. Flour the top (skin-side) of the chicken. Place the chicken skin-side down in the pan.



Cook about 10 minutes or until the skin is crisp, lightly browned and much of the fat has rendered into the pan. DO NOT FLIP THE CHICKEN!

Meanwhile, arrange the potatoes and onions in single layer in the baking pan. Top with the chicken, skin-side up.



Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and the potatoes are tender. Serve immediately.


My thoughts:
I am so excited I came up with this method of cooking chicken thighs last year. I love Maryland-style fried chicken but that is a bit much for every day. This method gives me crispy chicken that is still very moist and flavorful without the hassle of frying. The trick is cooking it skin-side down to crisp the skin and render most of the fat (the "bottoms" are virtually fat-free)--you can even crowd the pan because you don't have to flip the chicken! You end up with way crispier chicken then you can hope for with simple baking and since most of the fat has rendered, no greasy vegetables on the bottom.

I've made Crispy Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Artichoke and Olives and Crispy Chicken Thighs with Portobellos, Zucchini and Potatoes in the past but this time I veered away from making it a total one dish meal and just cooked the chicken over potatoes and onions.  I served it with a simple salad.  The best part is that since you seasoned the bottom of the chicken, you don't have to season the potatoes and onions, it just naturally coats the potatoes. The result is succulent chicken, flavorful potatoes in just about 10 minutes of hands-on time. You can't beat that!



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