April 19, 2019

Gnocchi with Ham, Watercress and Peas



Ingredients:

1 medium onion, cut into half-moon slices
2 1/2 cups cubed ham
5 oz watercress
10 oz fresh, shelled peas
30 oz plain, potato gnocchi
salt
freshly ground black pepper
grated parmesan


Directions:

In a large pan, saute the onion until softened. Add the ham and cook until warmed through. Add the watercress and peas. Add 3 tablespoons of water and saute until the peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper

Meanwhile, cook gnocchi to package instructions. Drain. Add the gnocchi to the pan and saute until lightly browned. Divide among 4 dishes and top with parmesan.



My thoughts:
I love coming up with recipes using up holiday leftovers! To be honest, we never host so I am almost always buying food just to make fun stuff with the leftovers! It's become a bit of hobby on its own, to be honest. We aren't people who mind eating leftovers, we normally make dinner for four so we can have the leftovers for lunch the next day but repurposing them into something new is so much more fun. For this recipe, I used a whole boneless smoked ham I bought at Costco. It's so easy to cube to use in other dishes but of course, you can use any leftover ham from any cut.

This recipe is super easy because let's be honest, after hosting, who wants to make another big elaborate meal? I used gnocchi I bought at Aldi but any supermarket or Italian grocery will have them. You can also make fresh gnocchi if you'd like but the vacuumed pack ones are pretty good and are even faster to cook than regular pasta. I love watercress with ham so much (this egg salad with ham and watercress is another great Easter leftover recipe), it has a peppery bite that offsets the often sweet and very smoky ham. Peas are classic with ham so I added some I bought at Trader Joe's (in the fresh department) to make it even more of a complete meal.

Normally, I am not one to eat gnocchi leftovers but (maybe because it wasn't homemade gnocchi and not saucy?) we had some leftovers (of the leftovers, ha!) and they really reheated well! I sauteed them in a skillet to reheat and they were quite tasty. Lightly browning the gnocchi adds a nice toasty flavor too.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

April 17, 2019

Bitter Herb Deviled Eggs


Ingredients:
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup minced watercress
3 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon grated horseradish
1/4-1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Use a mini prep, food processor or blender to thoroughly mix together the yolks, mayonnaise, onion, spices, and peppers until fairly smooth. Spoon an equal amount into each of the egg halves. Garnish with additional paprika, if desired.

Notes: Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. Can be made up to 24 hours ahead and refrigerated in an air-tight container.
My thoughts:
Easter and Passover overlap again this year so I thought I'd make some Passover-inspired deviled eggs. Last year when they overlapped, I made "Everything Bagel" inspired deviled eggs that were a big hit. This year I went for more of a Passover-tie in with bitter herbs. Maror, bitter herbs, are one of the foods on the Passover seder plate. The bitterness of the herbs is to represent the bitterness and harshness Israelites felt when they were slaves in Egypt. A few different things can be used as maror, including horseradish for maror, bitter greens like lettuce, watercress or endive for the second bitter herb, hazeret. It's a serious tradition for a serious holiday but the food that comes after is meant to be enjoyed! In that spirit, I thought I'd combine our two favorite bitter herbs to make a deviled egg that works for both holidays in our mixed household.

The results are excellent. A bit robust flavored thanks to the fresh horseradish and peppery watercress but it is tempered by the creamy mayo and egg yolks. A real crowd-pleaser.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

April 15, 2019

Toffee Macaroon Matzo Bars






Ingredients

2-3 sheets plain matzo
10 oz semi or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened finely flaked coconut
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk*
3/4 cup toffee chunks**


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly butter a 9x13 inch baking pan. Set aside.

Place the matzo in the bottom of the pan, breaking as needed to fit and cover the bottom of the pan as much as possible.



Evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips, then the coconut, and almonds over the matzo. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top, and spread with the back of a spoon or spatula until the mixture is evenly coated.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and immediately evenly sprinkle with toffee chunks.

Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing.  This will take a lot longer than you expect.




Store in the refrigerator or on a cool counter in an air-tight container. Freeze leftovers up to 6 months if desired.

*Make sure to use sweetened condensed milk that is marked as Kosher for Passover or use one of the many recipes for making it yourself that are available online.

**I placed this toffee in a resealable bag and hit it with a rolling pin to break it into chunks. I sprinkled both the larger chunks and smaller bits.
My thoughts:


I was trying to think of a new dessert or treat for Passover this year, we are not religous but I normally make something each year. The pineapple coconut matzo granola I made years ago was great but not exactly a dessert. I love making macaroons but I felt like something different. I was going to make matzo toffee and call it a day but then I had a better idea.

Last year I discovered Magic Bars (or Hello Dolly Bars or 7-Layer Bars) for the first time. I think bars are more popular in other parts of the country and are a bit old fashioned but I did not grow up eating them. We always had brownies or black bottoms, not bars!  I made what I called cocoanuts bars last year then for New Year's Eve to go with our numbers theme, I made speculoos butterscotch 7-layer bars. They are so easy to make and the flavors are really open to tweaking.

Why not replace the cookie layer with matzo? While I love these bars they are very sweet, and I've tried a few things to cut down on the sweetness, namely using very dark chocolate and/or unsweetened coconut but it's a bar that uses sweetened condensed milk as a binder. There's not much you can do! Using a cookie layer doesn't help either. Why not use matzo instead? It's not sweet, is perfect for Passover and doesn't need butter to help it stick together and cover a baking dish which makes the bar lighter as well.

Once I decided to make Matzo magic bars, I had to think about flavors. I thought I'd combine those popular Passover treats--matzo brittle and macaroons--into one bar. I didn't want to just layer coconut on the toffee and call it a day so I made toffee and sprinkled it on top and made the bars the traditional way but substituting matzo for cookie crumbs. When you sprinkle the toffee while the bars are still hot, it melts into the bars but doesn't turn totally liquid which is exactly what you want.

These were so good, my husband gave them the ultimate compliment-they were legit delicious, not just good for Passover! Passover desserts can be tricky so this is high praise indeed. Of course, you don't have to make these solely for Passover, they are a treat any time of the year. The toffee really is the crowning touch--it adds so much flavor and a contrasting texture to the coconut and matzo.




 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

Basic Toffee


Ingredients:

1 cup butter, cubed
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, rum flavoring or dark rum


Directions:

Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Combine butter, sugar, water, and salt in a small pot over medium heat.

Stir ingredients frequently over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil.

After the mixture comes to a boil, attach a candy thermometer. Continue to stir periodically as it thickens and darkens.

Once toffee reaches 305 (or when a drizzle of the syrup hardens and cracks in a glass of very cold water), remove from heat and stir in flavoring.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour. Break or cut into pieces.

My thoughts:
I made this to use in my toffee macaroon matzo bars but it is tasty on its own! I didn't use a candy thermometer but they are very useful, especially if you are new to candy making.
 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

April 04, 2019

Spiced Up Mochiko Chicken



Ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup mochiko flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon mixed black and white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi
2 egg, beaten
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trimmed of excess fat if desired)

Directions:

WARNING: This must be done the day before you want to make the chicken.

Place all ingredients in a resealable bag. Seal and squish around until the ingredients are evenly distributed and the chicken is well coated. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, preferably 16-24.

Heat about 1-inch canola oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Fry, turning once until the chicken is cooked through and golden brown. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.


My thoughts:
I love mochiko chicken. The technique is different than other fried chicken, you marinate it in the sweet rice flour and then it goes straight into the pan and super easy. Every time I make this Hawaiian classic, I wonder why I don't make it more often. I love the crisp batter, how easy it is to make and how flavorful the chicken tastes. I'm not much of a chicken person but even I look forward to this!

Until now, I've only made it the traditional way but this time I decided to spice things up a bit. I was going to just add shichimi togarashi but it has a bit of salt in it and since we were marinating it in soy sauce so I was worried the final dish would be too salty. So we added some of my favorite red pepper gochugaru which added some more heat and a lot of pepper flavor. Totally not traditional for mochiko chicken but it works. Think of it as sort of a Hawaiian-Korean-Japanese mash up. Hawaiian food is a real mix of flavors from all over the world and Korea and Japan both have their own style of very wonderful fried chicken (here's my recipe for karaage) so it made sense to me to add some those flavors to mochiko chicken to spice it up.


I served it with a scoop of sticky rice sprinkled with furikake (I buy this variety case)  and some broccoli sauteed with shichimi togarashi and onions. A super easy, surprisingly light weeknight dinner.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg

April 02, 2019

Smoky Eggplant Zucchini Dip



2 medium eggplants
2 small zucchini
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt
freshly ground black pepper
healthy pinch ground chipotle



Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.
Place each eggplant on a gas burner and grill, turning occasionally until the skin is well blistered. Allow to cool. Cut off the stem and halve lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with parchment and roast, cut side down until the flesh is tender, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

While the eggplant is cooling. Broil the zucchini on a broiler pan in the oven, turning occasionally, until the skin blisters and the flesh is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Scoop out the insides of the eggplant and zucchini and discard the skins. Drain the liquid through a colander into a bowl. Discard the liquid. Chop the pulp until fairly smooth but with still a few chunks.


Place in a medium bowl, stir in the parsley. Set aside.


In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, oil, lemon juice, garlic and spices until smooth. Pour over the vegetables. Stir until well combined. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.


My thoughts:
I love smokey eggplant dips like Mutabal and Baba Ghanoush. The local Persian place we frequent has a signature eggplant dip that is sort of a mashup of the two that I adore. I frequently order that and a side of loobia polo as my main dish. It is so good! When I was reading a ton of cookbooks recently as a judge for a contest, I came across a recipe for a riff on baba ghanoush made with zucchini instead of eggplant. I loved the idea and was going to make it but then I remembered I really love eggplant. How could I forsake it entirely? Plus I hate following recipes. I'm actually really bad at it. I can and will do it (well!) but it really goes against my nature. So I decided to riff on the riff and make a smoky, roasted eggplant and zucchini dip.

The directions are a bit finicky. I'm sorry. But roasting eggplant skin on the burner yields, in my opinion, better, tastier results than broiling but unless you are using Japanese or "baby" eggplants (which have become maddeningly difficult to find lately) it won't cook the eggplant through before it catches on fire. (ask me how I know) So, roast it on the burner then bake it until it softens. Conversely, zucchini skin is thinner and less tough so I don't like roasting it on the burner and instead, broil and unless they are truly massive, in which case they aren't very tasty and have giant seeds anyway, they cook all the way through in like 20 minutes. I waited for it all to cool and then chopped it all together. You could use a food processor but that requires a lot of cleaning and the pulp is so soft, it chops easily.

The results are amazing and well worth the effort! I loved the smoky flavor and it was very creamy. It was even good three days after I made it. I can't wait to make it again.

 photo coconut-sig_zpsb2fb208a.jpg