Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Salsa Rosa

Gnudi, pronounced like nude-y (please no inappropriate jokes) are the uglier but I think more delicious older sisters of Gnocchi (did you know pasta was female? Look how much there is to learn!) They are like ricotta dumplings or ravioli without the pasta (and we all know what the best part of ravioli is)- creamy, pillowy balls of goodness. I made them for what has turned into a weekly event now dubbed, "Gourmet Lunch Wednesdays" because Wednesday is my day off and its the day I end up experimenting in the kitchen after which  my husband and I get to enjoy the finished product for lunch. I served them with Salsa Rosa-which is just a fancy name for tomato-cream sauce, and is my most favorite sauce for pasta- a perfect combo of marinara and alfredo (don't they even sound like a happy Italian couple?)

2 cups ricotta
5 squares frozen leaf spinach,drained and chopped (equivalent I would think to about half a 10oz box of spinach)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
3/4 cup flour ( plus more for dusting)

Mix the ricotta, well drained spinach, Parmesan, eggs and yolks together and season to taste. Mix in the flour till a sort of dough forms (it will sticky, don't worry). Flour your hands and make balls out of the mixture and coat each ball in flour. Gently drop the balls into well salted, boiling water. Do not overcrowd the pan, you will have to do a few batches. Cook for about 5 minutes per batch (the dumplings should float to the top) and remove from the pot.

Salsa Rosa ( the easy way)
2 cups of your favorite tomato-basil marinara
5 Tbl cream
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Heat the marinara and stir in the cream and garlic. Cannot get easier than that.

The Gnudist colony: (sorry, couldn't help myself)

Up close and personal:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Oriental Chicken and Noodle Stir Fry

I think we have already discussed that there is a lack of good Chinese food around here, and by here I mean the whole country. If I want to indulge my cravings for Chinese I have to just make it myself. This dish is the marriage of a craving and leftover grilled teriyaki chicken. Do not be mislead by how ordinary this dish sounds. True, there are ordinary ingredients here, but they come together to make an extraordinary flavorful dish.The crisp vegetables, al-dente stir fry noodles and ginger sauce make this a winner and it literally took me only 20 minutes to make!  So, Qǐng màn yòng-請慢用 [请慢用!!! (Bon Appetit in Chinese but which literally translates to "please eat slowly"- how did they know??)

1 medium onion, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 cup snow peas
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 can baby corn, sliced
1 can sliced water chestnuts
2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1 package stir fry noodles ( called noodles "lihaktzafa" in Israel and sold in the pasta aisle)
chopped scallions for garnish

For the Sauce:
11/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated 
1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1/4 tsp wasabi powder 
1/4 canola oil

Make the sauce first. If you are using fresh chicken breast then let it marinate in a few tablespoons of the sauce. Put a few tablespoons of sauce in a pan and saute the vegetables for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and saute until cooked through, then add the rest of the sauce. While that is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles until almost al-dente. Add them directly into the pan and cook all together for another minute or so. Serve warm or room temperature and garnish with scallions.

and here is the close-up:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Nutella Chocolate Pudding

NUTELLA. NUTELLA. NUTELLA.  Oh, how I love thee. Oh, how I can't buy thee or I will eat thee all up.
O.k, enough waxing poetic about Nutella, but seriously, if you've never had it, it is ridiculously amazing and if you have had it then you have probably written similar poetry. For those newcomers to Nutella this is what I have to say to you- 1) I feel bad that you have been missing out all these years 2) it is a thick and creamy chocolate hazelnut spread that is DIVINE 3) it is sold everywhere, go out and get it NOW.
I recently bought a jar and knew I had to use it in recipes before it was consumed so I made a list of all the wondrous things I could do and this is the first one I tried (you will see the rest of the list on the blog over the next few weeks.) The recipe is a basic recipe for chocolate pudding that I found on a few sites but I've adapted it to make it truly and humbly superb. I garnished the pudding with Hazelnut flavored wafer rolls and chopped hazelnuts because whats a few extra calories when Nutella is involved. Enjoy!

1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbl cocoa
1/4 cup corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee
2 3/4 cup milk
2 Tbl butter
2 tsp vanilla
6 Tbl Nutella
chopped hazelnuts, hazelnut wafer rolls for garnish

In a heavy saucepan mix together the sugar, cocoa, corn starch, salt, and coffee. Add the milk and over medium heat stir in milk with a whisk, bring to a boil all the while whisking constantly until it is thick and coats a spoon nicely. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, butter, and nutella. Let it cool 5 minutes and then place some plastic wrap directly onto the pudding to prevent a film from forming. Cool till set in the refrigerator.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

This is one of my favorite soups- I make it often in the winter and its the soup I always make post-Yom Kippur. It is easy to make, rich, flavorful and filling and is always a crowd pleaser. It can be made in advance and heated up with no problem or serve it chilled call it Vichyssoise (sounds like "fishy swans" but no connection) and no one will be able to spell it but everyone will think you're a French master chef -either that or a food snob.

3 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
3 Tbl butter or oil
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes (in my opinion the only potato to use for this soup), peeled and cubed
8 cups of water
3 Tbl MSG-free chicken soup mix
salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream or whole milk

Saute the leeks in the butter or oil until slightly tender. Add the potatoes and cover with water and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about half an hour. Blend with a hand blender (use oil to saute and cool before blending if you want to keep your hand blender pareve), adjust seasoning, add cream and let simmer another couple of minutes.

(Pardon the picture, there is only so much you can do with white soup)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Asian Glazed Meatloaf

Up until I made this, there was absolutely nothing about meatloaf that appealed to me. I mean, just the sound off it is off-putting- meat in a loaf? a loaf of meat? There is just no way to make it sound better. Now, I know that meatloaf is supposed to be the ultimate comfort food, served with mashed potatoes and gravy, but I just never really had it growing up so it's been hard to jump on the loafed meat bandwagon. Until now.
I had some chopped meat left over and having already made meatballs (even that sounds better than meat loaf- balls of meat? meat in a ball? yum!) I tried to come up with something creative. Why my mind kept coming back to meatloaf I don't know but I certainly wasn't going to make the plain old kind so this is what I came up with. It's a take on traditional meatloaf but with Asian flavors and it is AMAZING. I literally could not stop eating it and my husband was 1)shocked because I never eat meatloaf 2)astonished by the rate in which I was shoveling it in 3)mad because that left less for him. I beg you to try this even if you hate meatloaf because it is just that good.

1 pound good quality chopped meat
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbl chopped scallion
2 eggs
1/4-1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
4 Tbl ketchup
2 Tbl Hoisin sauce ( an amazing ingredient!)

For the glaze:
8 Tbl ketchup
6 Tbl Hoisin sauce
3 Tbl Brown sugar

Mix all of the above in a bowl but do not over mix. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pat it into a loaf pan. Mix the ingredients for the glaze and spread over the loaf reserving a few tablespoons . Bake at 350 for about an hour. Pour grease out of the pan, add the rest of the glaze and bake for another 8 minutes.

Eating the screen can be harmful to your health.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Marinated and Grilled Vegetable and Chicken Salad

This is the low fat dinner I made to make up for the calorie laden tart. I pulled out my stove top grill and used it for the chicken and vegetables which had my house smelling like summer in no time. I have to say the salad was not only scrumptious and healthy but also full of texture- crunchy radish and sprouts, crisp lettuce, juicy chicken and pepper and tender eggplant and zucchini but it's against my religion to go on too much about salad so I'll just leave you with that.

For the Salad:
1 head Romaine lettuce
1 small eggplant, sliced,brushed with a little dressing and grilled
1 zucchini, sliced, brushed with a little dressing and grilled
1 red pepper, grilled and sliced
1/4 cup mixed sprouts
Sliced red radish
Grilled Chicken (recipe to follow)

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup dijon mustard
4 Tbl balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup canola oil

 Pour half of dressing over chicken and let sit for an hour. Grill and set aside. Assemble the other elements of the salad and drizzle the other half of the dressing over it. Happy healthy eating!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Swiss Chard and Leek Tart

Move over quiche, there's a new kid in town- a bigger, fancier, yummier, more elegant kid that knocks quiche out of the park. For those of you concerned about how many calories it takes to make this, I can offer only 3 pieces of advice- 1) it's worth it 2) it's rich enough that just a small piece will satisfy you 3)eat a salad with it, it will make you feel better. To those of you who are wondering why I feel compelled to use ricotta in every recipe I make its because I LOVE it and can't get enough of it. In America you can get a huge tub of it for like  $1.50 in every supermarket- its cheap, abundant and nothing special. Here, I have to practically sell my car to get 500 grams and you can find it only by the specialty cheese counter or hidden behind piles of plastic chummus containers in a small blue packages made by Gad. So, when I find it on sale I buy a ton of it even though the expiration date usually only gives me 2 weeks to use up all 6 pounds of it. Hence, ricotta will be the theme of many recipes to come.

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups flour
125 grams (or 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbls) cold butter cut into cubes
nice pinch of salt
2 Tbl cold water

Combine the flour and salt together and then crumble in the butter with your hands or a pastry cutter. Add the water and mix just until a dough forms. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour and then press into a tart pan.

For the Filling:
1 package Swiss chard (beet leaves in Israel), cleaned and chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 Tbl oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 container lower fat sour cream like 9%- (this is my sole attempt to lighten this up)
3 eggs
1 container whipping cream (its about a cup and its 32% -GASP! If you actually did just gasp you can substitute a cup of whole milk instead but trust me, it will not be as good)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (although such a mere amount is hardly  making a dent in my stock)
1/4-1/3 cup grated Mozzarella
pinch of nutmeg (there is nothing like fresh grated)

Preheat oven to 350. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium heat and add sliced garlic when hot. Watch the garlic to make sure it doesn't burn but let it fry until its very lightly golden brown. Remove garlic from pan (and pat yourself on the back because you have now officially made garlic oil). Add the leek and cook until tender and then add the swiss chard and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper to the mixture and set aside. In a bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, cream and ricotta. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Place leek filling on top of the tart crust making sure it is spread out all over. Pour cream mixture over and sprinkle with Mozzarella. Bake for about an hour.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roasted Pepper Pannini with Smoked Mozzarella

 I was debating whether a mere sandwich could count as a recipe but soon decided since this is no ordinary sandwich but rather a sandwich that delights all the senses and tantalizes the taste buds-that it counts (please pardon the sandwich dramatics.) Savory roasted garlic, sweet roasted peppers, fresh pesto, creamy ricotta, oozing smoked mozzarella on toasted Foccacia Bread- what more is there to say other than HALLELUJAH! The sandwich does require some preparation but can easily be made with shortcuts using store bought items. Either way, its a winner of epic proportions especially when served with Parmesan crusted baked onion rings.

1 Foccacia Roll
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
3-4 Tbl roasted garlic (slice of the top of a head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and throw it in an oven at 350 for an hour till tender- or, just buy it.)
1 roasted red pepper ( broil a red pepper until blistered on all sides, remove to bowl, cover for 15 minutes, until the skin removes easily- or, just buy it.)
1/4 cup basil pesto (basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil blended in the food processor, -or, just buy it (see how easy it could be?)
1/3 cup shredded smoked Mozzarella (who invented this genius product? YUM!)

Slice the roll so that it lays open but is not cut totally through. On one side spread the roasted garlic on the other spread the pesto. Spread the ricotta over the roasted garlic, lay the roasted pepper on top and sprinkle with the smoked Mozzarella. Spray a pan with cooking spray and heat on high until hot. Lower to medium heat and place the sandwich in the pan. Weigh down the sandwich with a plate or another pan and let it fry until crispy. Turn the sandwich over and crisp on the other side.
Warning: Cheese may ooze and tempt you to put your hands in the pan. Yes, the burn is worth it.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parmesan Crusted Baked Onion Rings

Did you just fall off your chair? You should've, because these deserve such an extreme reaction. The last time I made onion rings was about 10 years ago when I was working in Shallots, NY and was put to the task of slicing about 80 pounds of red onions for onion rings. Buckets of soap would not take the smell out of my hands for days and I swore off making onion rings FOREVER. Well, forever has passed and I decided to make them again. Onion rings have always been my favorite accompaniment- I would forsake french fries any day for a big pile of crispy onion rings- but I'm trying to stay away from fried foods for a while (thanks Gallby) so I came up with these beautiful, crunchy rings of semi-low-fat goodness. Soaking them in buttermilk gives them a delicious tang and the thickness of the mixtures helps to create a great crispy ring. On a whim I decided to add Parmesan to the breading and HOLY KAMOLY  they were elevated to another level of onion ring heaven. The method I used for baking them is one I use when I don't want to fry but I do want to achieve deep-fry like crunch. It requires heating a little oil on a baking sheet and placing the rings in the hot oil and then baking them. This is a great tip for anything that you want to taste and look fried without all the oil.

3 large onions, thickly sliced and separated into rings
1 1/2 cups butter milk (Rivyon in Israel, it comes out to one small 500ml container)-if you don't have buttermilk you can use regular milk mixed with a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice
2 eggs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp hot paprika or hot sauce
1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup cornflake crumbs ( I processed fresh cornflakes in the food processor)
1 cup Panko bread crumbs (gives unbelievable crunch, but any bread crumbs will do)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 
4 Tbl oil

Preheat the oven to 400. In a shallow dish combine the buttermilk, eggs, and seasonings. Mix well. Add the onions and let them soak for about half an hour. Combine the cornflake crumbs, Panko and Parmesan and season with some pepper and garlic powder. Remove each ring from the buttermilk mixture and coat with the crumbs. Place the oil on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Place the rings onto the tray (they should sizzle when placed down) and put back in the oven. Bake for about 5 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hot Diggity Dogs

These are in honor of the Super Bowl tonight. I can't for the life of me tell you who is playing, and I'm certainly not hosting a party at 3am in my house, but I thought I would throw my die-hard sport loving husband a bone and make him feel at least like we are celebrating. These are based on a famous football appetizer that involve bacon wrapped around either hot dogs or chicken, but I've kosherized it and put my own twist on it. The result is a cute little nugget of smoky, sweet, and spicy goodness that will take your breath away (literally! Have some water on hand!) They are certainly not healthy or low fat but they are goooooooood (and hey, the Super Bowl only comes twice a year, you gotta live a little!)As for the name of this delectable dish, I just couldn't think of anything better, so I'm sticking with it.

6 hot dogs cut in thirds
18 thin slices smoked goose breast ( widely available in Israel by the deli counter, if you can't find it in America, use beef fry or a non-lean pastrami)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp hot paprika (use less to make it less spicy if you want)\
1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sweet mesquite seasoning, optional (Costco makes a great version of this- you can leave it out but it adds great smokiness...if you can't find it you can also use hickory seasoning)

Mix the brown sugar and seasonings in a bowl and set aside. Wrap each third of a hot dog with half a slice of goose breast cut length wise and secure with a toothpick. Dip each piece into the seasoning mixture until it is well coated. Broil for 5 minutes until they are crispy and caramelized. Reserve extra seasoning mixture for serving. Mustard also goes well with these.

(empty spots in picture are due to husband who could not wait till after the picture to eat them)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mozzarella Sticks

These are so easy to make that it is just embarrassing to call this a recipe. I was buying mozzarella sticks in bulk because my daughter loved to snack on them, but just when I came home with three packages that were on sale, she decided she didn't like them anymore, so I threw them in the freezer and forgot about them. Fast forward a few weeks to when I was suddenly hit by strong memories of crunchy, gooey, oozing sticks of cheesy goodness dipped in marinara sauce from pizza stores past. After such vivid flashbacks it was a no-brainer what to do with the sticks in the freezer. Freezing the cheese  before making these is actually a great tip because it gives them more time to fry without the cheese melting out into the pan. Mozzarella isn't such a flavorful cheese, so what really gives these sticks their flavor is the breading and adding sesame seeds to the breading is just a pure stroke of genius (I'm so humble.) Altogether, the contrast of the hot crispy stick in the cool marinara sauce is sublime.

For the Breading:
1 1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp Mrs. Dash
1 tsp garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper
10 Mozzarella sticks, cut in half
Oil for frying
Marinara Sauce for dipping

Place egg and flour in separate bowls. Mix the bread crumbs and seasonings in a third bowl.  Dip each stick in flour, egg, flour, egg and then the crumb mixture (the double breading ensures an extra thick and crispy crust.) Heat oil till very hot and place sticks in the oil. They should sizzle right away. Fry for 30-45 seconds on each side and quickly remove. YUM!