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Posts Tagged ‘quick dinner’

Happy Friday!

Whew, what a week! This week has been quite the awesome whirlwind, if I do say so. It all started first thing Monday morning. I think the food gods must have been smiling down on me on Monday, because three great things happened all at once. First, I was able to secure (through a very helpful hand at my culinary alma mater, ICE) a ticket to this year’s IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) 2012 Conference. This year’s conference theme is The Fashion of Food: Where Food, Fashion and Media Connect. And let’s face it, I’m going for the food and the media, but I’ll stay for the fashion! Tickets run upwards of $300 for day so I feel super lucky to have gotten my hands on one. And there’s a Food Book and Blog Festival the day I’m going. What could be better?

The second great thing to happen is under wraps, but let’s just say I was offered the opportunity to visit a very exciting and mainstream center of food media, and I can’t wait! There may be more to come on that.

And then, as many blog readers know, a long time dream of mine came true when a friend of mine at the Huffington Post contacted me Monday morning to ask if I would like my post “Ten Things I Learned Working in a Restaurant Kitchen” featured on the HuffPost Food page. I think my reaction went something like screaming, sitting in shock in my pajamas staring at my laptop screen, and then calling my mom as fast as I could. Needless to say, I really appreciate the strong and positive response this post has gotten from food and non-food industry folks alike, and it has been a real thrill and honor to have it up on the Huffington Post. Thanks guys!

Photo by Flickr user: pvsbond

Given this blast of good fortune, and the fact that for the first time in over a year, my life is not being micro-managed and planned down to the minute, this week I also made a very spontaneous decision (read: in twenty minutes) and booked a trip to California for, oh, two months from now. I’ll be dragging my roommate and my boyfriend along with me to visit a life-long friend that moved out there a few years ago. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ll be visiting the West Coast in just a few weeks time for the first time in my life, but I couldn’t be more excited. I’m looking forward to eating, photographing, and blogging my way through L.A., wine country, and who knows where else, and sharing it all with readers. Stay tuned for that story in early June!

Photo by JD Eiseman

Even with all this exciting stuff going on, let’s face it – a girl’s gotta eat! I haven’t been out of a restaurant kitchen for a week yet, and already I’m dying to get my hands dirty again with a  few solid hours of cooking. One inspiring recipe I came across this week that just encouraged this further was for Akoori, or Indian Scrambled Eggs.

There’s an adorable, kitchy little Indian take-out place down in the Village by my office called Masala Times (very bollywood, very spicy). I first discovered Masala Times on a food tour of the Central Village last fall, and now I frequent it whenever I have a craving for quick, satisfying Indian food. Their Unda Bhurji Pav is my favorite dish by far –  a thick, chewy wheat wrap (known as a Roti), stuffed with soft, buttery, curried scrambled eggs, sautéed onions and green peppers – sort of like the Akoori in the recipe above.

As soon as I saw the recipe, the craving struck and instead of dashing down the street to Masala Times, I decided to whip this up at home instead. The verdict? As Cara said with a smile, “It tastes professional!” This recipe is a real winner, and will get you a fluffy, flavorful, slightly spicy scrambled egg that tastes just like traditional Indian street food. This is as perfect for breakfast or brunch as it is for dinner, thanks to the savory, rich flavors. Plus, it’s ready in a flash – fifteen minutes!

I made this just for myself, but the recipe can easily be adapted for a family meal (the recipe below is for two). Use two to three eggs per person, or as I did, two whole eggs and three egg whites. This goes great with some warm Roti or even crisped up whole wheat tortillas. Don’t forget the Mango Lassi!’

Unda Bhurji (Spiced Indian Scrambled Eggs) – Serves 2

Adapted from Food Republic

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of Sesame oil or Ghee
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small Serrano chile, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Method
1. Heat the sesame oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until browned, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add the garlic, Serrano chile, cumin, and red curry paste. Saute for a minute until fragrant, and then add the tomatoes. Cook for another minute until the moisture has cooked off. Reduce heat to low.
3. Add the cilantro and stir to combine. Then, add the beaten eggs and stir slowly to incorporate. Continue to stir eggs over low heat until soft curds have formed and the eggs are set, about five minutes.
4. Garnish with more cilantro and serve immediately with Roti, or a warm wheat tortilla.

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So, I’ve been on a real Salmon kick lately.

If you live in New York (or anywhere), this is an expensive “kick” to be on. Salmon can cost upwards of $15 a pound (!), which is, gulp, a dollar an ounce? Compared to the insanely low $2.99 a pound you can get boneless, skinless chicken breasts for, it seems like it would be hard to rationalize eating such a posh fish for dinner. But then, you man up, buy some salmon, make the salmon, and you eat it. And you realize, it is so, totally, worth it. Besides, there’s only so much ground turkey and chicken a person can take before they head straight to the fish counter at Whole Foods and order up!

Last week, I was looking to make a quick-and-easy dinner for one, and decided I’d broil up some salmon, since it’s pretty much as hands-off as you can get. I tossed a four-ounce filet with some olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and popped it in my toaster oven (like a professional chef would do!) at 400º F for about 20 minutes.

While the salmon was roasting away, I dug through my fridge for some sort of side dish that would at least resemble a vegetable. As per the usual, avocado seemed the most appealing. But since plain old avocado slathered on top of salmon seemed a one-note, I opted to cut the fat with a refreshing bit of chopped cherry tomatoes, diced roasted peppers, and a splash of balsamic.

This is a pretty “safe” dinner in my kitchen. I love all of these ingredients and they’re make frequent appearances in my cooking, so there wasn’t any doubt in my mind that I’d enjoy this dish. That being said, I didn’t expect for this to be quite so incredible!! In fact, it blew me away!

I took the first fork full of the steaming hot, juicy salmon with a cool, creamy chunk of avocado and tart piece of tomato, balsamic dripping, and did a double take (yes, this was powerful enough to tear me away from The Bachelor: Women-Tell-All). The flavors were completely complimentary, richly satisfying from the salmon and avocado, yet refreshing from the tart red vegetables and vinegar. Each bite of fish and salsa hit all of my taste buds: savory, sweet, tart and tangy.

While the first rendition of this roasted salmon dish came about by accident, the second take was completely deliberate, and I hoped to prove with a back-up taste-tester that not only was this dish ridiculously easy to pull off (even for those who might be intimidated by cooking salmon), but the mouth-feel from healthy fats and refreshing flavor were appealing to those with different palate preferences.

The verdict? The dish was, once again, a huge winner in the flavor department, not to mention full of bright, beautiful color, making it sure to impress. Serve it alongside a chilled orzo pasta salad, like the one below.

I adapted one of my favorite orzo recipes, upping the mint, kalamata and green olives for a more sweet and tangy contrast to the rich salmon. In short, this is a super-fast, super satisfying, extremely delicious (and healthy) spring dinner!

Roasted Salmon with Tomato Avocado Salsa – Serves 3

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 to 6 ounce fillets of wild Salmon (such as as Sockeye)
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 medium avocado, skin and pit removed, chopped
  • 1/2 of one large, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (depending on your taste)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 400º F.

2. Spray a baking sheet or roasting pan with non-stick cooking spray. Season salmon fillets with salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme on both sides. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat. Lay salmon skin-side down on the baking sheet. Roast in oven for about 20 minutes, or until meat flakes when cut with a fork.

3. While the salmon is roasting, make the salsa. Combine chopped avocado, tomato, roasted red pepper, balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Toss to coat. Allow to marinate while salmon finishes cooking.

4. Once salmon is cooked, allow to rest for a few minutes. Serve hot with a third of the salsa over each fillet. Great with a room temperature or cool orzo salad or green salad.

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Back in October, I did a stage at Bon Appetit for a day. Yes, the Bon Appetit. It was an amazing experience and I feel so lucky to have had it; getting to see exactly what went down in the BA test kitchen, whose recipes I pour over each month when my issue arrives, was sort of a dream come true. Even more delightful was this February, when I saw several of the recipes I helped prep in print in the magazine!

Since a stage is sort of like a day-long interview, the test kitchen cooks, in addition to testing my skills and focus, asked me a lot of questions throughout the day to get to know me better. Mid-afternoon, one question that was less professional and a bit more personal came up – “What is your favorite food?”

True to my thought process when questioned by any authority figure, I quickly debated telling them the response that would make me look more interesting, more cultured, more appealing as a cook, versus just the plain old truth. But since I’m a terrible liar, I opted not to spin tales of foie gras and venison, and went with the latter; “It’s a little boring, but I’m such a pasta lover.” Apparently someone else in the test kitchen was a pasta junkie too, and so it went over well.

And really, it’s not that surprising. Who doesn’t love thick, hearty strands of semolina goodness swirled through rich sauces, be them tart and savory, or luscious and creamy? A well-done pasta is something few people can escape the allure of.

Enter this week, where I was doing some hardcore procrastinating on my new favorite interweb obsession, Pinterest (that is, me and the rest of the female population of the world), when I came across this recipe for Pasta Puttanesca. Or rather, this picture:

From The Pioneer Woman; click for source.

I love the Pioneer Woman. The first time I ever saw her her was around Thanksgiving 2010, when Ree Drummond was on TV competing in the Thanksgiving Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Bobby and his team were driving up to the Drummond Ranch, and I freaked out a little bit because my boyfriend’s last name is also Drummond. In my naiveté, I frantically texted him asking if he might be related to whoever Flay was throwing down against, and though it wasn’t the case (that we know of), I still watched the whole episode, endeared by Ree’s personality and casual yet expert approach to cooking. And her food blog/website basically sets the bar for food bloggers.

Anyway, I saw this Pasta Puttanesca, and knew it had to be good. I’d never made puttanesca before, but a quick skim of the recipe proved I had most of the ingredients already, and it could be dinner in a cinch. I made a few modifications to the inspiration recipe, adding some sautéed chicken breast, using both black and kalamata olives, and a bit less cheese and oil to up the flavor while cutting the fat.

And it really did come together quickly – forty minutes, from start to finish, and I took my time. This pasta dish is so insanely delicious – the grape tomatoes provide the traditional acidic base of red sauce that we all crave, but the anchovies and olives add a layer of silky, savory Mediterranean flavor that makes this sauce downright addicting. I used Trader Joe’s High Fiber Spaghetti and added some herb-sautéed chicken breast for extra fiber, a punch of protein and staying power. Tossing the whole thing with some Parmesan cheese and fresh basil at the end ties it all together – it is, in essence, the perfect pasta.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself!

Pasta Puttanesca with Herbed Chicken – Serves 4

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ whole red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups of grape tomatoes, halved
  • ¾ cups of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 whole anchovy filets, minced
  • 1/4 cup of black olives (the canned variety), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 1 ounce of grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces of high-fiber or whole wheat Spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil for garnish
  • 2 4-ounce chicken breasts
  • Pinch of oregano or Herbs De Provence
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Method

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente while preparing the sauce.

2. Combine the minced garlic, anchovies, and olives in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced red onions and cook until they start to caramelize, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the grape tomatoes and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, until tomatoes start to soften.

4. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic/anchovy/olive mixture. Stir to combine the sauce, reduce heat to low, and continue to gently simmer until the sauce has reduced to your liking. Keep in mind the pasta will absorb some of the liquid, so wetter is better. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence or Oregano. Heat a skillet over medium heat and grease lightly with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil. Cook chicken breasts for 2 – 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. Once chicken has cooled slightly, roughly chop into bite-sized pieces.

6.  Drain pasta and add to the sauce pan, along with the diced chicken. Add the grated Parmesan and toss to coat pasta in the sauce. Garnish with chopped basil sprinkled over the top. Serve right out of the skillet.

Nutrition Facts (per HUGE serving; makes 4 servings) – 344 calories, 11 grams of fat (1.8g saturated fat), 7.2 grams of fiber, 23.5 grams of protein.

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Lately, I’ve been on this kick of disguising healthy meals and wholesome ingredients inside dinners that appear to be anything but slimming. This was largely brought on by my desire to get back to a healthier lifestyle in 2012, after a full, wonderful, unforgettable year of indulgence via culinary school cuisine, and the fact that I’m often cooking for two, one of whom needs ample carbs, protein, and fat to feel mildly satisfied after a meal.
Trying to find ways to create dinners that provide me with a balanced, low-cal, low-fat meal while making sure my boyfriend finds dinner as satisfying and delicious as he would were he enjoying something he chose himself has definitely been a challenge.  Usually when I make a lighter style meal, he sees right through my facade and clearly identifies said meal as “healthy.” And though he still finds the meals delicious (usually), I can’t help but think he feels sort of jipped by being forced to eat way more vegetables than he’d ever do normally.
After last night’s win, however, I’m starting to feel more confident that not only is this challenge doable, but I am really going to enjoy it!
It all started yesterday morning, when I was making my lunch and looked up to notice a postcard that had been stuck on my fridge for several months. It was a card I’d g0tten while dining at the Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side, and upon it was listed the recipe for the shop’s spicy pork meatballs. Immediately, I filed away the idea for dinner that night.
Later that evening, thought, I was unsuccessfully hunting for the requisite ground pork and jarred hot cherry peppers at our local grocer, and neither could be found. In a game time decision, I grabbed a pack of ground turkey and some raw hot cherry peppers instead. Fearing the blandness that often accompanies ground turkey, some crumbled feta cheese and frozen spinach were added to the mix, and the Spicy Greek Meatballs were born.
Despite the addition of the cheese, hot peppers and plenty of spices, I was still a little wary of how good these meatballs would turn out as I placed them in the oven. I’m a both big proponent of adding lean ground turkey to just about everything – pasta, rice, veggies – to up the protein quotient, but there’s no denying that this lean meat can wind up dry and crumbly more often than not. By opting for the 93% lean turkey instead of the 98% lean, and using an egg to bind the meat, these meatballs turned out moist, savory and delicious – not a trace of dryness here! And the inclusion of tangy feta, spicy cherry peppers, garlic and tons of spices give them a depth of flavor and a slight kick at the end that leaves you dying for the next bite.
Halfway through devouring these meatballs, which I served atop a bed of linguini in a thick tomato-herb sauce, I glanced at Adam, who was plowing through his plate, and casually mentioned, “You know, these are actually quite healthy. Only 100 calories per ball!”
He stared at me, then back at the meatballs, and then at me again. After a moment, he said, “Really? Are you sure? Only 100 per ball? These definitely don’t taste healthy.” And he proceeded to clean his plate.
That, my friends, I consider a win!
Spicy Greek Feta Meatballs – Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 4 hot cherry peppers, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 package of ground turkey (about 21 ounces, 93% lean)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach (about 1 3/4 cups) defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon ground salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/8 tsp dried dill
  • 1/8 tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp dried parsley
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 450º F. Place a cast iron skillet or roasting pan in the oven to preheat
  2. Coat a small or medium sauté pan with non-stick cooking spray, and heat over a very low flame. Add the minced hot cherry peppers and garlic and sweat, keeping heat very low, for about 5 minutes or until peppers are soft.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix thoroughly until the spices, feta and spinach are well distributed throughout the ground turkey. Form into ten to twelve equally sized meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
  4. Remove your preheated pan from the oven, coat with non-stick cooking spray, and immediately add meatballs, arranging closely together. This will allow the meatballs to get a golden-brown crust on the bottom. Put meatballs in the oven, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165º F and meatballs are done.
  5. Serve over pasta with a fresh, light tomato sauce, or on a crispy hero roll for a Greek meatball sub. For a healthier spin, serve alongside a light Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red wine vinegar and dill.
Nutrition Facts (2 meatballs per serving, when recipe makes 11): approximately 204 calories, 10 grams of fat, .5 grams of fiber, 24 grams of protein.

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