Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bertolli Ribollita con Crostini di Pane (Italian Soup with Bread)

My Mom started making this soup back in the nineties. I remember the first time she made it I was very hesitant to try it. I mean look at all the vegetables that are in the recipe. Shudder. But, I have to admit that the vegetables are nice and tender and you really can't tell they're in the soup. Plus, this recipe has a ton of flavor and it's just a nice warming dish to have on a cold and snowy day. The other great thing about this soup is you can add or subtract whatever ingredient you might like or not. If you don't like beans substitute pasta instead. Or, have both! Plus, it goes great with the bread. Enjoy!

1/4 c Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for serving
1/4 c each chopped and trimmed fennel, celery, onions, and carrots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
6 c chicken broth
1 can (28oz) Italian Plum Tomatoes, cut up
2 c. peeled & diced russet potatoes
1 can rinsed and drained cannellini beans
1 c. finely shredded Savoy cabbage or Swiss chard
1 c. diced trimmed zucchini
2 tbsp. each chopped fresh parsley and basil
2 cups Pasta (optional
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
8 slices (one per bowl) Italian bread

Combine the olive oil, fennel, celery, onions, carrot, and garlic and thyme in a large heavy saucepan. Cover & cook over medium low heat until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Do not brown.
Then, stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, potato, beans, & cabbage or Swiss chard. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the zucchini, parsley, and basil. If using add in the pasta. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into a bowl and serve with a piece of bread.

Snickers Bar Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Friday was Valentine's Day. Since I didn't have a Valentine to treat; I decided to bake some cookies for my friends instead. Sally's Baking Addiction is seriously becoming my go-to cookie recipe source. I'm loving all the recipes I made, and this one is no exception. Anyway, I chose this particular cookie recipe, because who doesn't love chocolate chips? And, adding a snickers stuffed in the center just elevates the chocolate chip cookie to the next level. I did try the cookie right out of the oven, and it just tasted like a really good chocolate chip cookie. However, a couple hours later I tried the cookie again, and you could definitely taste the snickers. So, I would recommend waiting a half hour or so before biting into one of these scrumptious cookies. And, my 5 Valentine's definitely approved of this cookie! Enjoy!

2 cups + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) salted butter, softened (I used unsalted and added 1/2 tsp salt)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla exract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 fun-sized Snickers bars, cut into 4 pieces each (you may need more depending on how many cookies you get)

First take out a medium bowl and add in the flour, baking soda, and salt (if using unsalted butter). Stir and set aside. Next, add the butter and sugars to your standing mixer bowl and cream together. Then, add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce the speed of your standing mixer to low and gradually add in the flour mixture. Then, add in the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Stir well. Place the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes up to 24 hours.

Before assembling the cookies, make sure you pre-heat your oven to 325. To assemble the cookies take a small pat of cookie dough and flatten then add the snickers piece. Take another pat of cookie dough and add on top of the snickers portion. Roll together and place on cookie sheet. I got about 30 cookies out of the dough. Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookie turn a golden brown. Remove from oven, and place on a cooling rack. I advise waiting about 30 minutes or so before biting into the cookie, but I understand if it's too tempting. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Brussels Sprouts & Prosciutto Farro Risotto

Ah, the dreaded Brussels sprout! This vegetable is single-handedly responsible for billions of children sitting at the table refusing to eat until their parents gave up and sent them to bed. Not even broccoli enjoys such a sordid history of disgust. But Brussels Sprouts are enjoying a mini-revival in the foodie-scene. These tiny cabbages are popping up on menus everywhere, and after tasting this recipe (which I found on Domesticate Me) they will be popping up in my home quite frequently as well. Plus, there’s the added bonus of feeling like this is a pretty nutritious meal. Farro AND Brussels sprouts, come on. (And prosciutto, I know, that kind of hurts my healthy argument). We loved this recipe, and even though it took awhile to make, it was worth it. Creamy, nutty, with the salt from the prosciutto and the great burst of flavor when you get a piece of Brussels sprout, this will be a big hit with your family (yes, even the kids.)

4 Tbsps olive oil, divided
8-1s Brussels sprouts, washed and quartered
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1¼ cups farro
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
3 ounces prosciutto, diced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

We soaked our farrow for about two hours in cold water before we made this. I have no idea if it had any effect but I was afraid not to do it. If you want to go rogue and unsoaked, I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

Start by pouring your chicken stock or broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. You’ll want to keep it at that simmer throughout this process. Go to your Brussels sprouts next. In a skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add in the sprouts. Sprinkle in the salt and red pepper flakes and cook until they are lightly browned and tender. It only took about ten minutes for us. Watch the heat, because although you want them browned, you don’t want to burn them. But definitely make sure they get tender.

You can start the next step while you’re cooking the Brussels sprouts if you are able to multitask. If not, no worries. Some of us like to be methodical and there’s nothing wrong with that! In your Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil and add your shallots. Saute for about 3 minutes over medium heat before adding the garlic and cooking that for another minute. Next, stir in the farro and toast for 3 minutes, making sure it gets coated in olive oil and doesn’t burn.

Turn the heat to low before deglazing the pan with your white wine, scraping up any brown bits. Once the wine is completely absorbed, pour in one cup of the warm chicken stock. Keep it simmering and stir occasionally until the farro almost completely absorbs the liquid. This took some time, much longer than it usually takes when we make risotto. But it eventually happened, so have faith and be patient! Continue this process, adding a half-cup of stock at a time until you’ve added it all and the farro is al dente. It has more tooth than a risotto, which I like, but if you want it to be softer, you could try adding more broth (I think: I confess this is just a theory).

Once all the stock is absorbed, add in the Brussels sprouts and most of the prosciutto (if you are saving some for serving). Stir until the sprouts are heated through and then stir in the lemon zest and Parmesan. You shouldn’t need more salt but taste it and add pepper if you want and then serve! I hope you like it as much as we did, and redeem those wonderful Brussels sprouts.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Asian Pear and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese

Don't you just love arugula? It's such a great lettuce and goes great with a wide variety of accompaniments. I love it with blue cheese, parmesan, grapes, white beans, fennel, beets, etc. I thought I'd give this recipe a try from Food and Wine. They accompany arugula with pear, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese. However, since I didn't have pumpkin seeds I used pistachios instead. I also used Giada's lemon dressing from this recipe. This is a seriously delicious recipe. Give it a try and I think you will love it. Enjoy!

1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 oz baby arugula
3 Asian pears (or d'Anjou) - peeled cored and very thinly sliced
1/2 c salted roasted pumpkin seeds
3 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Sea salt, for sprinkling

In a small bowl; whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, thyme, salt, and pepper. Take out a large bowl, and add the arugula with the pear slices and pumpkin seeds. Add the dressing and toss well. Then, add the crumbled goat cheese and sprinkle some sea salt if desired. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spicy Thai Steak "Salad"

I’ve actually already made this recipe three times, but just finally got around to taking the photo. That gives you an idea of how good this is, as well as how lazy I am when it comes to winter food photos. (It’s just so hard to get a good photo when it’s dark out!) Oh, and then I realized that this time I forgot to add the cilantro and chives, so now my photo isn’t even accurate. OY VEY!

Anyway, I’m not sure how this qualifies as a salad, but I’m keeping that in the title because it makes me feel all healthy and stuff. There’s really nothing salad-y about it. It’s seared meat, onions, spicy chiles and a very flavorful citrusy-umami sauce. You could serve it over lettuce, I suppose, but it’s really quite tasty over rice instead. I found it on food52, although I made a few modifications and added a little sesame oil because I’m in love with it.

1pound steak (flank, top sirloin)
1 to 2 chilies (I used fresno, but use whatever spice-level you like)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsps fish sauce
4 Tbsps fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 packet chives, sliced into 1-inch lengths
1 handful cilantro, roughly chopped

I know this goes against everything in your cheftastic being, but do NOT season the meat. I know, it’s crazy, but there’s actually enough salt in the marinade. So, start by searing the steak in a pan or on a grill to your desired doneness. You can use olive oil or if you love sesame oil the way I do, that’s also an option. Let the steak rest while you make the marinade.

Thinly slice your chiles and then cut the slices in half. Seed it if you are a big baby about heat. Add the chiles, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and sesame oil to a large bowl and stir to make sure you dissolve the sugar. Add in the onions, chives and cilantro and toss well. Thinly slice your steak (against the grain!) and add the slices to the bowl as well. Stir everything thoroughly and then stick it in your fridge to marinate for a half hour. I also stirred mine about every ten minutes. Not sure that helped anything, but it made me feel useful. Then serve over rice. Keep in mind that your steak mixture will be cool, so you may want to use rice that is cool or room temperature as well.