Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Iron Chef Corn: Corn and Poblano Lasagna

I was pretty excited for Iron Chef Corn. There are a lot of great recipes out there featuring that ingredient. One of my favorite recipes is this one for Corn Chowder. I absolutely love it. It's spicy and cheesy and just plain delicious. But, since it's a recipe I posted on this blog I figured that was kind of cheating. Well, not really cheating but not very original. So, I went on the hunt for some main course recipes. I tried several before settling on this one for Corn and Poblano Lasagna. I loved the corn sauce that replaces the typical ricotta cheese mixture. Plus, the squash and poblano in place of the meat was a nice change. I loved how cheesy and spicy it was, too. I knew that if I didn't win at least it would taste pretty darn good. And, coming in second is not bad at all. I hope you like it as much as I did. Enjoy!

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears), or frozen and thawed
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (I used Coriander instead of thyme)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion
2 large zucchini or yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 poblano chiles, charred, peeled, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
2 cups corn kernels (from about 2 ears), or frozen and thawed
12 (7 by 3-inch) no-boil lasagna sheets (I used regular lasagna sheets about 10)
2 cups shredded Oaxaca cheese, or mozzarella (I ended up using 4 cups cheese)

First pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Next, take out a heavy saucepan and melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add 2/3 the garlic and cook until fragrant. I also added the chopped jalapeno at this point. Mix in the corn and sautee for a couple minutes. Add in the heavy cream and the coriander (or thyme). Season with salt and pepper. I also added about a teaspoon of red hot pepper flakes. Pour the mixture into a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Set aside. 

In the same heavy saucepan, add the remaining butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and sautee until translucent. Add the remaining garlic and cook until fragrant. Then, add the squash, poblano peppers and cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add in the corn kernels and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. If you are using lasagna sheets that require boiling; go ahead and take out a heavy pot. Add the water and some salt and a little oil to help keep the sheets from sticking together. Add the lasagna sheets and boil for about 8 to 12 minutes. Drain. 
Next, take out a 9x13 baking dish and pour some of the corn sauce on the bottom. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Pour the vegetables on top of the lasagna sheets and the sprinkle with the cheese. Repeat layers by adding the corn sauce next then the lasagna sheets and then the veggie mixture and the cheese. Repeat 2 more times. Cover with foil and bake for about 50 minutes. Then, remove the foil and and turn the oven temperature to broil and broil for a couple minutes until the cheese turns a light golden brown color. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Korean Chili Shrimp

I know, I know, I make way too many recipes with shrimp. But I can’t help it. Shrimp is just such a great alternative to the typical beef/chicken/pork dinner options and it’s healthier. And just because I’ve already posted some really good shrimp recipes that I love (like this one, or this one), doesn’t mean that I can’t find even more to love. My heart can take it. And it turns out, this one was pretty darn fantastic, definitely a keeper. I found it on Heart, Mind & Seoul (see what they did there?) and I’m not exactly sure what makes it Korean but let’s go with it. The recipe was incredibly simple, and I didn’t have to buy any of the ingredients except the shrimp, so bonus for my checkbook! I cut down on the amount of Asian chili sauce (reflected below) and it still was incredibly spicy, so if you don’t like spicy food… this isn’t the shrimp recipe for you. We served it with Soba noodles and I think they added more than regular pasta would have. They soaked up the sauce really well, plus they have a slight sweetness and a tiny hint of peanut buttery-ness that was perfect for this dish. You can also serve it with crushed peanuts on top, but we opted not to and I didn’t miss them.

24 prawns or shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt & pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon chili oil
2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce (original called for 3)
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons water
Soba noodles

The Asian Chili Sauce is kind of vague since there are tons of chili sauces and some are sweet, some aren’t. We went with a chili garlic sauce like sambal oelek. Start by patting your shrimp dry and then seasoning them with salt and pepper, and tossing them in corn starch. Then mix up your sauce using the chili oil, Asian chili sauce, ketchup, sugar, and water. I accidentally threw the garlic in there too which turned out ok but you’re actually supposed to cook it. Oops. At this point you want to get your water ready for the noodles. They only take about four minutes to cook, and shrimp cooks fairly quickly as well.

In a wok, heat up some olive oil and add your garlic. Cook for just a minute or so and then add in the shrimp. Cook the shrimp for just about 3 minutes, flipping midway, and then add in your sauce. Stir it in to coat the shrimp. Cook for a few more minutes until the shrimp is cooked through and the sauce thickens. Then drain your soba noodles and toss them into the wok. Stir for one minute and then serve. We kept the tails on our shrimp and I think in the future we would take them off to make them easier to eat with the noodles. But if you are making the shrimp alone for an app, I would leave the tails on. Hope you enjoy and add this shrimp recipe to your dinner rotation, too!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Balsamic Glazed Steak Rolls

I save a lot of steak recipes. Mostly because steak just looks so darn good. So I have a bookmark folder full of recipes like “steak with burgundy mushrooms,” “steak with chimichurri,” “sugar steak,” “garlic steak” or “steak with stout pan sauce.” YUM. But here’s the rub. I never make any of those recipes. Why? Because the Hubs has a secret weapon for awesome steak. It’s some sort of magical steak seasoning that he gets in Wisconsin at a local shop, and it turns a ribeye into something worthy of worship. I LOVE this seasoning. It may have been a big factor in my decision to marry the Hubs. Just saying. Anyway, I digress. All this to say, I don’t often make steak recipes, but I’m really glad I tried this one that I found on Picture the Recipe. It was truly excellent and a nice way to get your meat and veggies all rolled up into one. Plus, balsamic glaze. I mean, you can’t go wrong. I think this could make a great appetizer, but we ate it as our main course and that works too! 

1 1/2 – 2 lb skirt steak/ 8-10 thin sliced sirloin
Salt & Pepper
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Steak seasoning (Whichever kind you like)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot
1 bell pepper (I prefer yellow or orange)
½ a zucchini
5 green onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp italian herb seasoning
2 tsp butter
2 tbsp finely chopped shallots
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup beef broth

Ok, full disclosure here… I totally cheated this recipe and went super lazy by buying a bag of broccoli slaw instead of slicing all those veggies. Don’t judge me. But I will probably try the non-lazy route next time just to see if it’s worth the trouble. We also used sliced tri-tip because we couldn’t find skirt steak or a sirloin thick enough. Use whatever you can get.

Start by marinating your steak for at least a half hour or up to a couple hours. Simply slice it fairly thinly, season with salt and pepper, and pour the Worcestershire over the slices. I’m guessing we used more than just 3 tablespoons because we didn’t measure. So you can totally eyeball it. While the steak is marinating you should prep your veggies (even if that’s just opening a bag) and start on the sauce.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and then sauté your shallots for just a few minutes. Then add in the balsamic, beef broth, and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil it until the sauce is reduced by half and turns into a sort of syrup. This only took about 5-7 minutes for us. Pour the sauce in a bowl and set aside.

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the same pan and add the crushed garlic cloves. You cook for a few minutes to get the garlic flavor in the oil, then add your veggies (except the green onion). Salt them and also add in the Italian seasoning. You only want to sauté them for a few minutes so they still retain their crunch.

Now it’s assembly time! Lay out the strip of steak and place the veggies on it (including the green onion). Then roll the steak over the veggies tightly and secure it with a toothpick. In your skillet, coat the bottom lightly with oil over medium high heat and add the rolls with the seam down. Don’t move them for a couple minutes to get that nice brown crust. Repeat this on all sides of the steak if you can. Ours was so thin that we could only do two sides or else we would have overcooked it. Here’s where you add some of your steak seasoning. To serve, remove the toothpick (it should stay together pretty well) and drizzle some of the balsamic sauce over the top. It’ll be a great addition to your steak recipe repertoire! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Iron Chef Corn Recap

I have to admit, not every Iron Chef competition we've done has involved an ingredient that I particularly love. Melon, for example... not one of my favorite foods in general. Same thing with pumpkin. I even had my doubts about our ginger challenge, although it turned out pretty good. But corn? Man, I love corn. Who doesn't? It's sweet, buttery, juicy and fresh. It pairs well with just about anything. Corn is pretty much my favorite vegetable, mostly because it tastes so much better than any of the other vegetables. Sorry, broccoli. Too bad, asparagus. No hard feelings, kohlrabi. Yep. I knew this was going to be a great Iron Chef. And I was not disappointed.

We started the night with an appetizer offering from our lovely hostess, Laura. She made Corn Dip Filled Peppers with corn chips. The dip itself was cool and creamy, and Laura took it to a more elegant level by putting it into sliced bell pepper cups that added crunch. She also sprinkled corn chips on top of that for even more crunch and salty flavor. It was one of those dishes that stayed on the table all night because we constantly grazed off it and no one could bear to let her take it away. 

Next we enjoyed Chelyen's Jalapeno Corn Cakes with Cilantro Sour Cream sauce. They were sort of like little silver dollar pancakes made with corn and jalapenos, and I do love a savory pancake. They weren't all that spicy, but the cool sour cream would have taken care of it if they were. In fact, the Cilantro Sour Cream was so good it almost overshadowed the corn cake, and I would definitely love to try the sour cream on other Mexican dishes!

Cara originally chose to do a drink, but after trying the only corn drink recipe she could find, she decided not to subject us to it, for which we are eternally grateful. She switched to an appetizer and it turned out to be a great plan, since she had the winning dish of the night! Her Roasted Corn and Poblano Pepper Poppers were a big hit. Some were spicier than others, but the creamy insides and panko crumb topping helped keep it cool. These were cheesy, spicy, corny and clearly the favorite of the night!

Our first side dish was Doan's Truffled Corn with Maple Bacon and... um... corn, bacon, truffle oil? Those are some of the most delicious sounding words in the world. Doan did a great job balancing the truffle oil (which can be overpowering if overdone) with the flavors of the corn and crispy bacon. This was a little like creamed corn taken to another level of tastiness.

The other side for the evening was an offering from Shu: Grilled Corn, Black Bean and Mango salsa. Now, I'm not a big fan of beans, so I avoided them, but the other ladies say that it was a great combination. I thought the mango with corn was really interesting! It tasted really bright and fresh, and was a completely different flavor profile from all the creamy or sweet items everyone else made, which really made it stand out. 

There were two mains for the evening, starting with our second place finisher: a vegetarian Corn and Poblano Lasagna from Emily. It is difficult to make an entree that really features corn so this lasagna was a genius find. It was a white lasagna with plenty of cheesy, creamy goodness from the corn sauce, and just a hint of heat from the poblanos. Plus yellow squash and zucchini to give it some structure.

The other main came from me and there's no photo because it honestly was just a sad, sorry mess and I didn't want photographic evidence of my epic fail. Corn tortillas stuffed with a chicken-corn mixture that dried out in the oven... I don't even want to talk about it. Suffice to say, I decided to wing it, and that's not something I will ever do again!

Our foray into corn desserts began with Kim's Butterscotch Corn Cake. Made with butterscotch schnapps (a tongue twister for some of us at this point in the evening) and creamed corn, it was very moist and almost bread-pudding like. It was sweet and delicious, and I think that if you didn't know it had corn in it, you might not realize it. The butterscotch flavor really came through and was a great component of the cake. 

Our other dessert was also a corn cake, but Kristy's Sweet Corn Cake with Blackberry Compote tasted very different from Kim's. This one veered more towards cornbread, but sweeter, and the spiced blackberry compote was really complex and flavorful with hints of nutmeg. I think the compote would be delicious with ice cream as well! 

By the end of the night, we were all comfortably full and happy with all the dishes. Everyone highlighted the best parts of corn and it was a great choice for a summer competition. Congrats to our winner, Cara and runner up, Emily! We are looking forward to our next Iron Chef hopefully sometime this fall! Until then, try one of the dishes above or figure out what you would have entered in Iron Chef Corn!  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Braised Short Rib Pasta

I know I’ve mentioned my love of braising before. And I’m sure I must have told you how I love a great long-cooking pasta sauce. This recipe combines those two loves into one fantastic, meaty, saucy meal. Short ribs are great for recipes like this because they don’t seem to get as dried out and stringy as other cuts of beef do. This sauce is really flavorful with depth, and tastes great on homemade pasta (if you have the discipline to do it). I will say that although it’s a great dish, it doesn’t have the complexity that my Bolognese has, but it’s still very good and definitely worth a few hours on a lazy Sunday. Although it’s a long recipe, it’s not too terribly complicated. I found the recipe on The Tasty Bite blog and the only real changes we made were to add pancetta (why not?!) and some seasoning adjustments at the end.

2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
3 lbs. flanken-style short ribs with bones, cut 2 inches thick
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 oz pancetta, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 cloves garlic
28 oz. canned tomatoes
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef broth
1½ cups dry red wine
1 lb dried or fresh tagliatelle
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

Start by chopping your veggies and setting them aside. Then pat dry the short ribs and season well with salt and pepper, then dredge lightly in flour. Add your oil to a dutch oven over medium heat, and then brown the ribs on all sides, in batches. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add in your pancetta and crisp it up for about five minutes before adding in your onion, carrots, parsley and garlic. Cook for another 10 minutes until the veggies are soft and then add in the tomatoes, paste, cocoa, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, broth and wine. Stir well and bring to a boil.

Take it down to a simmer and return the ribs to the pot. Cover and cook for an hour and a half. Then remove the lid, stir and simmer for another hour and a half. After it’s done cooking, you’ll want to start your water boiling for pasta and cook as directed on the package. As I said, we used fresh pasta, but this would be just fine with dried as well. Take the meat out of the sauce and remove the bones and any membrane before shredding. Remove the bay leaves and discard them before using an immersion blender (or a regular blender carefully) to blend up the vegetables in the sauce and make a puree. Return the meat to the sauce and taste. This is where we had to add a good amount of salt and pepper, and also chose to add in about a teaspoon and a half of cayenne. We liked the subtle heat it brought, but it’s totally a personal decision.

Once your pasta is cooked, drain it and add to the sauce. Mix, and serve with some high quality grated Parmesan on top! Then spend the rest of the evening lying around with a full belly, groaning but happy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spicy Sesame Carrot Salad

Carrots are fine. To me, that's all I can say. I don't dislike them. I don't love them. They are just fine. But, the Hubs likes carrots a lot. And I found out as I was making this carrot salad, my two dogs also really like carrots. Well, one of them likes them, the other I'm pretty sure thinks they are just orange sticks and is a little confused by them. But that's neither here nor there. The important part is that even though I'm not a big fan of carrots, this Spicy Sesame Carrot Salad was really good. I even went back for seconds. I found the recipe on YumSugar and pretty much followed it exactly, although I skipped the sesame seeds because I just find them to be a nuisance. And I put about a half teaspoon more of sesame oil because I love it so. This salad is just a little tart from the vinegar, and has a building heat. The carrots are still crunchy but a little softer than an untreated carrot, and it gets some nice flavor from the sesame oil and cilantro. It's a great summer side! 

1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (I added a little more)
1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (1/2 tsp if you don’t like spicy)
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled lengthwise into thin ribbons
1 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves

Start by peeling your carrots, then use the peeler to cut the clean carrots into ribbons. This was harder to do than I thought, and I actually had some of the centers of the carrots left where it was no longer viable for me to get ribbons of carrot without also getting ribbons of finger. So I gave the carrot centers to the dogs (and the Hubs). In a separate bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegars, honey, sesame oil, seeds, flakes and salt. Pour this dressing over the carrots, add the cilantro, and mix thoroughly. I would let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes for the flavors to get into the carrots a little bit. And make sure to mix it again as you serve it because the dressing tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl. I’m sure this is a side dish that everyone will enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Aloha Burger

I don’t often make burgers for home consumption, although I do often ORDER a burger at a restaurant. And I really do enjoy burgers of all shapes and sizes (with fries, gotta have great fries!) But I think they are one of those things that seem really simple to make, and they really aren’t. First you have the patty. Gotta figure out what kind of meat, and do you want to add any seasoning or anything to pep it up. It’s hard to make the perfect patty. Then come the toppings. And when do you prep those? Do they go on the burger while it’s cooking or after? And the bun! There are a thousand buns to choose from. English muffin is a personal favorite, but the classic is good too. So, as you can see, there’s a reason why I’ve never posted a burger on this site before. But I decided that I’d try one for the July Fourth weekend. This aloha burger caught my eye because it has pineapple on top! Yes, pineapple! It seems a little strange, but it actually tasted really good. We had some issues with our patty, but I’m modifying the recipe below to reflect changes I would make to solve the meatball effect. I would definitely make this again.

Patty Ingredients
½ pound ground beef
½ pound sausage (I used Hot)
1 medium onion, diced small
1 jalapeño, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or basil)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce

Barbeque Sauce
Pineapple Slices
Cheddar (or your favorite cheese)

This makes about six big patties. We actually only cooked half and froze the others to make later! If you want to make it with all beef, that’s fine too. I just like the extra flavor that sausage brings. Take your beef and sausage out of the fridge while you prep so that when you mix with your hands you won’t freeze your fingers. Sauté your onion and jalapeno for just a few minutes in a little olive oil to soften them up. Add the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds before taking it off the heat and letting it cool. You can skip this step if you aren’t feeling it, but the heat helps bring out the flavors a little and I think helps it feel more incorporated into the patty. Sometimes raw veggies want to separate from the meat a little more than sautéed ones do.

In a bowl, mix together the beef and sausage with the cooled onion, jalapeno and garlic. Add in your spices and barbecue sauce and mix those really well with your hands. I’ve found that using cooking gloves really helps with the mess here. Seems a little excessive but no one likes raw meat under the fingernails.

Once the meat is thoroughly mixed, form it into patties and cook on your grill! Add the cheese towards the end to melt onto the patty. Give your buns a light toast while you’re at it. And don’t forget to grill the pineapple! Then build your burger. I opted to put the pineapple on top of the burger so that it wouldn’t get the bottom bun all soggy. So, cheese, pineapple, a little BBQ sauce (Stubb’s Spicy is my favorite!) and a few strips of bacon. Then say Aloha to your hunger!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nutella Swirl Bundt Cake

Our friends hosted a Fourth of July cookout. We were asked to bring a side dish for those who wanted to bring something. I, on the other hand, wanted to bring a dessert. I know whenever I go to a cookout I always want something sweet after the main course. However, I wasn't sure what I wanted to bake. I contemplated bringing this lime pie, see's fudge, or finding something on the Internet that I've never made before. Ultimately, I opted to bring something I've never made. I found this recipe from My Catholic Kitchen , and I thought it sounded pretty good. You know how much I love nutella (at least you do if you've been reading this blog long enough) and a bundt cake is a fairly easy cake to make. Unfortunately, it didn't come out of the bundt pan too well. This is probably because I left to go to the pool and it sat too long in the pan. Oh well. It still tasted great. I thought it had the right amount of sweetness. Overall, it was a big hit as I had no leftovers to take home with me. And, the cook out was a smashing success. Lots of good food, great company, and we even got to see some fireworks.

1 1/3 cup softened butter
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Nutella spread

First take out your bundt pan and grease well with cooking oil spray. Set aside. Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Now, take out your mixing bowl and add your softened butter and the sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Then, add your eggs one at a time while the mixer is on low speed. Add in the vanilla. Then, add in the flour alternating with the buttermilk and finishing with the flour. Pour half the batter into the bundt pan. Then, microwave for 30 seconds the nutella. Pour as evenly as you can the nutella spread onto the batter. Then, add the remaining batter. Take a bamboo stick or chopsticks and swirl it in the batter. Bake for an hour to an hour and 10 minutes in the oven. Rotate the pan half way thru to ensure even baking. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Sprinkle with powder sugar if you desire.