Easy as Pie…Err Tart?

Mushrooms, Gruyere, Baked

Mushroom & Gruyere Tart

Sometimes people get so hung up on names, titles, making sure things fit the mold and are “correct” that they forget to realize what’s actually important.

My Sunday started off well, I strolled the green market, chugging my large coffee, and stumbled across incredible Crimini mushrooms.  My mind immediately decided that a perfect mushroom and cheese tart would be in order.  Little did I know that in a few hours, back at home, this decision would send me in a frantic  Google search on the difference between a tart and a pie and, oh quiche! Ok, I am sure the copious amount of caffeine didn’t help my compulsion, either.

1 hour, 8 browser windows and two crossed eyes later I realized that there probably was no way I would received a definitive answer.

“It’s the dough you use!”

“No, it’s about the type of pan you bake it in”

“A pie a sweet and is only baked on Wednesdays.”

So this had me thinking, doesn’t really matter what we call things?  If I want to call it a tart, I’ll call it a tart – who is going to stop me!

Whether it’s food or in life, it’s all about what you make of it right?

But let me just say, you better make it something delicious.

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Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

Pork belly lardons – ’nuff said.

Pork Belly & Sour Cream Flatbread

(makes 2 flatbreads)

2 cups pork belly cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons sour cream
3 teaspoons chives, chopped
1 package pizza dough
Oil, to grease pan
Flour, to roll out dough

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork belly in batches so that cubes are distributed evenly in order to brown.  Season each batch with a half teaspoon of salt and pepper.  Add 1/4 teaspoon rosemary to each batch.  Drain well browned pork belly on a paper towel and let cool.

2. Roll out pizza dough into two ovals.  Spread each with 2 tablespoons of sour cream.  Sprinkle each flatbread with 1 teaspoon with chives and half of the pork belly mixture.

3. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 15-20 minutes or until dough is cooked.

4. Let cool for a minute before slicing into 6 pieces and garnishing with remaining chives.

Simple Potato Salad

So many recipes these days offer a twist on a classic dish but why mess with a good thing?  In fact, sometimes the simpler the recipe, the better the results.  Case in point, this classic potato salad.  A cold version of a classic hot german potato salad, this dish is perfect for a picnic as the lack of mayonnaise means less refrigeration is needed.
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Orzo Salad for a Crowd

Potlucks, BBQs and picnics usually mean you’re in charge of making a dish that can satisfy a crowd.  Instead of the expected potato salad, wow them with this orzo salad that incorporates all the flavors of  an antipasti plate.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand to make this recipe your own and try grilling them if it’s just to hot for the oven.

 
Ingredients:
4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz. soppressata , cut into half inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 1/2 cups parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan 
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 lbs. orzo

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place quartered tomatoes on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle on 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the tomatoes so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once half way through.  Remove and let cool.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  Then, in a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add the asparagus for 1 and a half minutes.   Remove asparagus and promptly place in the ice bath to cool.  After 5 minutes in the ice bath, drain the asparagus and dry with clean kitchen towel.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the asparagus so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once about half way through.  Remove and add to the pan with the tomatoes.  Add the chopped artichoke hearts to the pan and toss to combine.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once water is boiling, add orzo.  Cook according to package directions making sure to remove the orzo when it is just al dente.  Drain pasta and stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Divide the orzo and vegetables evenly among two large bowls (due to volume) and combine.  Add equal amounts of the soppressata and olives to each bowl.  In a jar with a tight lid (or large mixing bowl), combine the parmesan, chili, parsley, basil, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt to make the dressing.  Drizzle in 3/4 cup  olive oil.  Place the lid on and shake to combine.   Pour half of the dressing over each bowl of orzo.  Squeeze lemon into each bowl and sprinkle a little fresh black pepper.  Stir to combine well.  Cover and let sit in the refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe feeds a large crowd but can certainly be halved for smaller groups.

 
 

Mussels in a Fennel Cream Sauce

There is just something special about tiny French bistros.  You know the one where you can get lost in hours of good conversation with a close friend while savoring every morsel of delicious food placed before you.  Maybe it’s the wine, or maybe the warm ambiance of the dimly lit dining room.  Perhaps a little bit of both.  Or maybe it’s the soul comforting food these french bistros usually produce.

These mussels, smothered in a silky, smooth sauce spiked with fragrant fennel would feel right at home on any of those bistro menus.  Served with a crusty french baguette or a side of thin cut fries, these mussels are perfect to enjoy on a cool, crisp fall night with your favorite company.

 

Mussels in a Fennel Cream Sauce

(serves 4)

Printable Version

2 pounds mussels, cleaned
1/2 large Vidalia Onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 large fennel bulb, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 pint light cream
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
Salt
Pepper
1 Bayleaf
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter

In a large saucepan or pot over medium heat, warm 1 tsp olive oil and saute the onions for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add butter and remaining tsp olive oil to the pan before stirring in the sliced fennel. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The fennel should be soft and the onions starting to caramelize. Pour in white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan before adding the water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the bayleaf. Place a cover and let cook 8-10 minutes.

Remove bayleaf.  Either using a standing blender* or immersion blender, puree mixture until almost smooth. Place sauce in pan back over low heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Turn the heat up to medium-low and add in mussels. Cover the pan and let cook 6-8 minutes or until all of the mussels have opened**. Stir in chopped flat leaf parsley.

Serve mussels either over pasta, rice or with a crunchy baguette.

* If using a standing blender, make sure sauce is cool before placing in the blender.
** If mussel does not open, discard & do not eat.

Hummus & Egg Salad

There really are few things I dislike when it comes to food.  Oddly enough, two of the things I dislike the least are both popular condiments. So I will just come out and say it, I am repulsed by mayonnaise and ketchup.  My Big Mac’s are eaten dry and I can’t stand the sight of egg salad.

Oh and speaking of egg salad, well it’s not just the mayo.  I can’t stand hard-boiled eggs either, or so I thought until recently.

The other day, however, I came across Caitlin’s simple, fresh salad that included, of all things, a hard-boiled egg.  I closed the page and thought nothing of it, except when the next day I started thinking about that egg.  It was perfect, white on the outside with a deep yellow circle in the middle. I had to have one.

But how? An egg salad sandwich, perhaps?

Cue the hummus.

One of my favorite things about not liking mayonnaise (besides the look on people’s faces when they hear such blasphemy) is coming up with different substitutions for common mayo laden dishes.  This was a perfect opportunity to do that again.

The hummus in this egg salad lends the perfect creaminess while green onions add a mild crunch.  And here’s the proof, upon tasting, a skeptical, mayo loving friend mumbled under their breath “This is better than the original”.   Turning doubters into believers everyday my friends.

So what foods can’t you stand?

Hummus Egg Salad Sandwich

Printable Version

(makes 2 sandwiches)

2 hard-boiled eggs*

¾ cup diced cherry tomatoes (or any tomato you have on hand)

¼ cup sliced green onion (both the white & green parts – don’t discriminate!)

2 tsp. hummus

¼ tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

Paprika

Hot sauce (optional)

4 slices whole wheat bread, toasted

1 cup spinach

To make egg salad:

Take cooled hard-boiled eggs and slice lengthwise down the center.  Holding the two sides together, slice three times in the opposite direction so the egg is cut into cubes.

Add egg, tomato & onion together in a medium bowl.  Season with half of the salt and pepper plus a sprinkle of paprika.  Mix in hummus.  Stir in remaining salt, pepper and hot sauce if using.

Let sit 5 minutes while the bread toasts.

To make the sandwich:

For each sandwich, add ½ cup spinach to the bottom slice before layering on the egg salad.

* Don’t know how to make hard-boiled eggs?  Yea – neither did I.

It’s simple, for 2 eggs just fill a small saucepan three quarters full (enough so the eggs are covered), add a pinch of salt and bring to a slow rolling bowl.  Add in the eggs – without breaking them of course – and let cook for 13 – 15 minutes.  Remove and cool before peeling.

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking (and obviously eating), just haven’t had a lot of time to post.

But here is a meal that is definitely worth trying.  A modification of the Shrimp & Bok Choy dish I love so much, this one uses another thing I love: sweet potatoes!

Chicken & Sweet Potato Curry

(makes 3 servings – makes great leftovers for lunch!)

6 oz. chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 small sweet potato, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 can lite coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup bamboo shoots (optional)
1 tbsp sambal oelek
2 tsp curry powder (mild, medium or hot depending on your preference)
2 tsp. olive oil
Salt
Pepper

1. In a saucepan with steamer basket, steam the cubed sweet potato for 6-7 minutes or until cooked though.

1.   In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Place chicken in the pan.  Cook 3 minutes on one side before turning over.  Continue until chicken is browned but not fully cooked, about 6 – 7 minutes.  Remove from pan and place to the side.

2. Add remaining olive oil to the pan.  Add the onions with the Sambal Oelek & curry powder.  Saute for 3 – 4 minutes or until softened.  Toss in bamboo shoots, if using, and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Pour in coconut milk and the 1/2 cup of water, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove anything that has stuck to the bottom.  Add in the cooked sweet potato.   Cover and let come to a boil until reducing the heat and letting simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Right before serving, add chicken and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

4.  Serve over your choice of noodles, rice or steam veggies (broccoli is great!).


Yogurt Marinated Chicken + Sweet Potato Pancakes

You win some, you lose some, right?

I’m chalking last night’s loss in the kitchen up to aggravation & a cloudy mind.

After a long day at work and many things on my mind, I went to grab the marinating chicken from the fridge.  Since I was rushing, I didn’t notice the brand new carton of eggs situated awfully close to said chicken.  With one quick grab I managed to get both out of the fridge.  Only problem?  All of the eggs wound up on the floor and needless to say, cracked.

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Reducing Food Waste (& Your Grocery Bill)

Until recently, I was living at my parent’s home & commuting everyday into the city.  As trying as this time was (as any post-graduate living with their parents can attest to) it was also a good time to save money, something you don’t appreciate until you are paying an arm & a leg for a NYC apartment.

My only problem was having more money meant that I had more to spend on my weekly groceries.  Compounding this problem was that at the end of the week, I often found myself wasting food.

Although my new found budget constraints makes smart shopping a necessity rather than just a ‘nice to do’, weekly food planning is something that can help anyone who is looking to waste less, on a budget or not.

To make it easy, dedicate 20 – 30 minutes a week before you do your shopping to do the following:

  • Take inventory:  What’s in your fridge, freezer & pantry.  Check dates & see if there is anything you should use up soon.
  • Glance at your calendar:  Even though life can throw you a curve ball sometimes, loosely try to plan out your week.  Are you planning on working late Tuesday night?  Hopefully it’s more like drinks Wednesday with your girlfriends.  Whatever it is, make sure to have a few backup plans ready.
  • Pick & Choose: Don’t carve your weekly menu out in stone.  If your plan falls through it will only discourage you.  Instead, make a 4 column list – breakfast, lunch, dinner & snack.  Keeping in mind your inventory & schedule, start filling in each of the columns seeing where you can reuse leftovers or get double use out of purchases.  From here, decide what is absolutely needed from the store. Use this list as you go through the week, picking & choosing depending on what works for you as each day unfolds.

By doing this you should see a dip in your weekly food budget as well as the amount of food you waste each week.  To give an example, here is my list for the week…

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