Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Giada's Lemony White Bean and Arugula Salad

I know! I know! I'm posting another salad recipe. But, it is summer after all, and I'm trying to get healthy. So, why not help you get healthy, too. Ha. In all seriousness, this is a really delicious salad. I found this recipe on The Food Network. And, it's a Giada recipe, so it has to be yummy, right? Right. Last year, I made a similar recipe here, but this one you eat on a crostini. Yeah, not as healthy, but just as scrumptious. For this salad, I added pine nuts to give it a bit more crunch, but I think it need even more of a crunch. Perhaps pecans would have worked better than the pine nuts. But, it certainly didn't take away from the flavor. The dressing was really good, too. I think I'm going to incorporate this dressing in more salads than just this one. Overall, I really enjoyed the salad, and I know I will be making it again. Enjoy!

5 packed cups (5 ounces) arugula
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp Pine Nuts or Pecans (optional)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Take out a small bowl, and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and whisk well. Set aside. To make the salad; take out a large bowl and add the salad, beans, chopped onions, capers (if using), and any nuts you may be using. Pour the dressing onto the salad, and toss to combine. Enjoy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chocolate Cupcake with Strawberry Buttercream

The last couple posts have been fairly healthy; a couple salads and a pasta salad. Even the smoked wings are fairly healthy except for the ranch dip, perhaps. Alas, I'm here to post a so not healthy recipe but it's a so very good recipe!! Recently, a friend turned 35, and I offered to bring something for her celebration. I was told that if I brought one of my baked goodies they would be very happy. I found out that our friend loves chocolate and strawberries. I've seen several recipes floating around for cupcakes with strawberry frosting, and I thought it would be the perfect thing to bake. I decided to use this chocolate cupcake recipe. But, I shouldn't have started cleaning my bathtub while the cupcakes were baking, because they ended up a tad overbaked. Doh! I don't think anyone noticed. Hopefully. I found the strawberry buttercream from Sweet Lavender Bake Shop. It was quite scrumptious. Granted, the recipe calls for 4 sticks of butter! Yowza! Alas, this isn't a frosting you want to make every day, but once a year should suffice. Overall, I think the cupcakes were a big hit. The birthday girl approved, too! Enjoy!

Cupcake Batter:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Strawberry Buttercream:
5 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, almost room temp (cut into little cubes)
2 tsp vanilla extract
½-1 whole vanilla bean
3/4 cup fresh strawberry puree macerated with 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners. Set aside. Take the bowl from your standing mixture and add in the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix together to combine. Take a medium sized bowl and add in your buttermilk, vegetable oil (I used canola oil), eggs, and vanilla. Stir. Slowly add the liquids to the dry ingredients while the speed of the mixture is on low. Once combined; slowly add in the coffee. Now, I was pretty concerned because the mixture was very liquidy (sorry, just made up a new word). Have no fear; just pour the mixture directly into your prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a couple cupcakes. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Now to make the strawberry buttercream; take out your blender and puree the strawberries. I used a pint of fresh strawberries. Measure out 3/4 of the strawberry puree and pour into a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp of sugar. Stir and set aside. Next, get out a medium sized saucepan and add water about half way. Bring to a boil. Add the bowl from your standing mixer to the saucepan to create a double boiler. Add the egg whites and sugar and whisk constantly until the sugar melts. This should only take a couple minutes if that. Remove the standing mixer and attach it back to the mixer. Attach your wire whisk and whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. This takes about 10 minutes. Make sure they egg whites have cooled by touching the bottom of the bowl. Next, one square at a time add the butter into the egg whites. Continue to do this until the butter is fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and the vanilla bean. Lastly, add the strawberry puree to the mixture. Stir until full incorporated. Filly a pastry bag with a large star attachment and pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. Enjoy!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chinese Chicken Salad with Red Chile Peanut Dressing

Recently, I flew to Florida for a little vacation. It was a wonderful trip. I got to fly in a little 4 seater Cessna plane. I went out on a boat in the Tampa Bay Harbor with my aunt and uncle. I went to the beach for a day, and of course ate a cuban. I always eat a cuban sandwich whenever I visit my hometown. After-all, that's one of the few states where you can get a "real" cuban. Also, while visiting my cousin in Bradenton, we made a quick trip to the store to get ingredients for a salad and for my mango and pineapple salsa. Well, the mango and pineapple salsa was such a hit that we ended up getting too full on it, and never made the salad. Well, I really wanted to try this salad because my cousin said the peanut dressing that goes on it is delicious. When I got back home to Richmond; I sent my cousin a quick text asking for the recipe. I didn't realize it was a Bobby Flay recipe. I should have known it was good just based of that name alone. And, indeed, it's delicious. The salad had a nice crunch with the peanuts, and the dressing had a nice kick with the peppers. I highly recommend this dish. I know I will be making it again. Enjoy!

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
2 teaspoons chipotle peppers, puree
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
2 carrots, shredded
1/4 lb snow peas, julienned
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
2 cups shredded rotisserie cooked chicken
1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
chili oil (optional)
grilled lime, halved for garnish

Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, pureed chipotle peppers, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and canola oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Take out a large bowl and combine the lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, green onions, shredded chicken, peanuts, and mint leaves. Toss to combine. Drizzle with chili oil if using. Pour the dressing on the salad, and toss till well combined. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Smoked Wings with Homemade Ranch Dip

It’s hard to believe it’s only been a year since we got our smoker. Since then we’ve smoked ribs, we’ve smoked pork butt, we’ve smoked salmon. And three times, we’ve smoked chicken wings. It all turned out fabulous, don’t get me wrong, but the wings are so easy (relatively) and so, so good. That’s why we make them so often. And I should clarify, when I say “we” I definitely mean the Hubs. The smoker is his baby and he handles everything from start to finish. I just make the sauces. Speaking of which, I have this great recipe for homemade Ranch dip that goes well with the wings. I found it on Carla’s Confections. It’s garlicky with a hint of dill, and a smidge thinner and slightly chunkier than the stuff you buy at the store, which makes it perfect for dipping your wings! The wings themselves are a tiny big spicy, with tons of great smoky flavor. We found the rub recipe on The Black Peppercorn.

¾ cup paprika
½ cup sugar
½ cup salt
¼ cup ground black pepper
3 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp thyme
2 tbsp dry mustard
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp sage

This makes a ton of dry rub, so if you aren’t having a huge party, you might want to cut it down. Mix all the ingredients together well in a Tupperware container or mason jar. You can store leftovers in the fridge and use it for other chicken or pork or hey, more chicken wings.

The Hubs gets full wings and breaks them down instead of getting precut drummies. Cut it at the joints and toss the wing tips (unless you have some great recipe for them that I don’t know about). You’ll want to get the rub on the wings 24 hours in advance if possible. It just helps the flavor to seep into the wings a little bit. On the day you’re going to smoke them, put them in a single layer into a disposable metal tray (or two, or more) with a lip. The lip is important because your next step is to slice pats of butter and scatter them on top of the chicken. This is the Hubs secret for keeping the wings moist (and delicious!). I’d say roughly a stick of butter per 9 by 12 tray.

Hopefully if you are interested enough in smoking wings I don’t have to explain to you how to use a smoker. Get it up to 200-225 degrees and keep it there as you smoke the wings for around two hours. We use Mesquite wood, but I've also heard that any fruit tree is great for chicken. To make sure they are done, cut one open after the two hours and make sure the juices run clear. If you want to use a meat thermometer instead, just make sure the internal temp is up to 160 degrees. 

1 c mayonnaise
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp green onion chopped small
2 large cloves of garlic
1/8 - 1/4 c milk (more if needed)
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh dill, bruised
1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dip flavors to develop you want to make it ahead of time. At least two hours, but I think it’s better to make it a day ahead if you can. Mix all the ingredients together and stir well. I wanted my dip to be a little thinner so I was close to the ¼ cup of milk, maybe more. If the chunky texture bothers you, you can always make it in the food processor. This makes a good amount of dip, but if you have leftovers there are plenty of places to use good Ranch. I’m sure you’ll come up with something!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Iron Chef Grape: The Signature Salad

I hosted our 17th Iron Chef Competition. I decided that our "secret" ingredient would be grape. There was some contention concerning this ingredient. I think because there aren't a heckuva lot of recipes out there for grape. You really have to go digging to conjure up some recipes. Overall, I think it was a pretty darn successful competition. I wanted to make something delicious, but I didn't really want to win since I was the hostess. I decided to make a side dish, and tried a couple different recipes. Ultimately, I settled on this salad because I thought it was delicious and represented the grape well. Plus, it's a pretty dish which doesn't hurt. I've since made this salad and it's really scrumptious. Enjoy.

8 ounces mixed greens
2 cups red grapes, sliced in half
2 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
2/3 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
½ cup shelled pistachios
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese (I used Manchego cheese)

Sherry Shallot Vinaigrette
1 medium shallot, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup sherry vinegar (if you can't find sherry vinegar, substitute red wine vinegar)
½ cup olive oil

The recipe doesn't call for this, but I roasted my grapes. Set your oven to 350 degrees. Take out a baking sheet and add some foil on top. Place the sliced grapes on the baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for about 5 to 10 minutes until the grapes start to soften. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Now, let's make the dressing. Take out a small bowl, and combine the minced shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, and vinegar. Then, whisk in the olive oil until well combined. Now, onto the salad. Take out a large bowl and combine the lettuce, diced pears, cranberries, pistachios, cheese, and roasted grapes. Using salad tongs give a quick toss of the ingredients. Pour in the dressing and serve immediately. Enjoy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad

This is a pasta salad that I made a long time ago. Before I really got into cooking. I found this recipe on All Recipes, and I took it to a party of my then-boyfriend, now-husband’s co-workers. And…no one ate it. Well, I did. And of course my “trying to impress” boyfriend did. But no one else did, and that still stings a little. But I actually really enjoyed it, so I made it again this weekend, 8 years later, for one of my own parties. And I can’t say that I set it out with much confidence, but that all changed when everyone started complimenting it. And eating it. In fact, by the time the night was over there was none left at all. So I’m not sure what was wrong with that first group of people, but clearly they don’t know what’s up! This is a fairly simple pasta salad to make, but it’s got a lot of great flavor, and it’s definitely different from your traditional summer pasta salads. Don’t be like that first party—try it!

1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped green onion

One thing to note right off the bat. I generally have to make a second batch of the sauce. The pasta and chicken just really suck it up. So usually, I make it as directed and let it spend the night in the fridge. In the morning I stir it up and test it, and almost always end up making another half batch of the sauce to add in. I definitely recommend making it ahead of time since the sauce really needs to get into the pasta and chicken to hold on to that flavor.

Boil your chicken breasts and shred them first. At the same time, you can boil your farfalle (bowtie) pasta to al dente. Rinse it under cold water to cool and put in a large bowl or Tupperware. In a jar or a Tupperware container (something that you can tightly close) mix the vegetable oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, and black pepper. Close the lid (tightly!) and shake the dickens out of it. Then pour it over the pasta and mix in the chicken, cilantro and green onion. Let it sit in the fridge overnight and then assess the flavor. If it seems a little bland or dry, make another half batch of sauce and pour it in. Let it sit for another fifteen minutes at least before serving.