|August 7, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
Recently, the farmers market has been chock full of a variety of peppers – spicy habaneros, various colors of bell peppers, banana peppers (that I have been pickling and enjoying on sandwiches) and my personal favorite, poblanos. I find that farmers market poblanos are particular delicious because they have a little more spice than the ones you find in the grocery store.
The problem with my love for poblanos is that it often leads me to making Chile Rellenos. While chile rellenos are absolutely the delicious, they are not the most low calorie dish given that they are stuffed with cheese, breaded and fried.
So when I bought a few poblanos this past Saturday at the market, I wanted to put them to use in a healthy way. The result was a Mexican themed stuffed pepper that was full of flavor and healthful ingredients including lean ground chicken, fiber packed black beans and fresh sweet corn.
And because everything is better with at least some cheese, I topped the peppers with a combination of (homemade) smoked cheddar cheese and queso fresco.
The end result was so flavorful and filling and will definitely be a repeat in my house! Serve these up with salsa (I made the Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Style Salsa, but store bought would be great), sour cream or Greek yogurt and Mexican style rice.
Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Chicken, Black Beans and Corn – Serves 4
- 8 poblano peppers
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (about half of a medium onion)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/3 – 1 1/2 lb ground chicken, beef or soy meat
- 28 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinced
- 2 ears sweet corn, kernels removed, or 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 cup cilantro, chopped
- 3 TB chile powder
- 2 TB cumin
- 1 cup of shredded cheese (Monterey jack, cheddar, queso fresco, oaxaca would all work well)
- S+P to taste
- Canola oil
Pre-heat the oven on the high broiler setting. Rub the poblanos with canola oil and place on a baking sheet. Broil until the poblano skin is blackened. Remove from the oven and place in a paper bag or a bowl topped with plastic wrap. Allow to steam for 5 minutes and remove. Peel the skin (it should come off easily). Allow the peppers to cool slightly and then cut a 2 – 3 inch slit in each pepper and remove the seeds. Set peppers back on the cooking sheet.
To make the filling, pour about 2 TB of canola oil into a large pan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is softened slightly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground meat and break up with a wooden spoon. As you are breaking up the chicken, season with the salt, pepper, chile powder and cumin. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the chicken begins to brown. Add the corn, beans and cilantro and stir everything to combine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and turn off the heat.
Allow the filling to cool slightly and then stuff the peppers. Top the peppers with the shredded cheese.
Cook the peppers for 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven and then broil for 1 minute to brown the cheese. Serve with Mexican rice, salsa and sour cream!
|August 5, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner, Restaurant Recreations|
The combination of the tender mushrooms with the fried or grilled polenta is absolutely delicious and is made even better with the addition of lots of fresh rosemary flavor and rich tasting broth that is served along side.
One of the things that I haven’t been able to recreate with this recipe is grilling it with any amount of success. Instead of getting those beautiful grill marks, I get more of a grill indentation and end up with half of the polenta between the grill grates. So instead of grilling, I choose to light fry my polenta. The result ended up working really well and still captured the essence of my favorite restaurant version – crispy exterior and creamy interior.
As for the mushrooms, I opted for a “mushroom medley” from the farmers market that featured porcinis, shitakes, creminis and portabellas. If you don’t have access to porcinis and shitakes, cremini, white, and portabella mushrooms work just as well.
As for attempting to recreate the broth that goes with the Vinci version, I think I did a really good job! First, I created a broth using beef bouillon, the stems from the mushrooms and lots of fresh mushrooms.
After the sauce rendered down, I combined it with garlic infused olive oil and red wine and poured it over the polenta and mushrooms.
Finally, for presentation, I lightly (and carefully) burnt the rosemary right over my stove top to release its wonderful aroma and then placed it on top of the dish like Vinci does.
I think this is great as an appetizer or a vegetarian entrée. If you increase the number of mushrooms you use, this will absolutely fill you up like a meat entrée would!
Fried Polenta with Wild Mushrooms – Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer
- 2 lb mixed wild mushrooms
- 1 cup course cornmeal or polenta
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 5 cups water, divided
- 5-6 stems of fresh rosemary stems
- 1 TB beef bouillon
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- S+P to taste
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil with about 1 tsp of salt. Once boiling, add the polenta or cornmeal, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender (about 8-10 minutes). Add the parmesan and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning as necessary (I added some pepper at this stage). Pour into a bread pan or 8×8 baking dish. Even out the top and allow to set, in the fridge for 2-3 hours until firm.
To prep the mushrooms, de-stem them (holding onto the stems!) and clean gently with a damp paper towel. Brush the mushrooms with EVOO or spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Take the stems and combine them with 3 stems of fresh rosemary (no need to take off the stem as you will drain the broth), the mushroom stems and the beef bouillon. Bring to a boil and rude heat so that it simmers, reducing and being infused with the mushroom flavor for 15-20 minutes.
In a separate sauté pan, add 2 TB of EVOO and heat over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic gloves and sauté until slightly browned but not burned – about 3-4 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves and pour in the red wine. Allow the alcohol to cook off for 1-2 minutes. Add the drained mushroom broth and cook everything together for 5-7 minutes until it has thickened slightly.
While the sauce is cooking, grill the mushrooms outside or on a grill pan, or sauté in a skillet until they are slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside – 2-3 minutes per side. Keep the mushrooms warm in the sauce.
In a large sauté pan, add 2 TB of EVOO and heat over medium high heat. Remove the polenta from the fridge and cut into 4 portions. When the pan is hot, add the polenta and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the polenta is slightly browned.
Finally, carefully “toast’ the remaining 2 rosemary stems to release the wonderful scent.
To assemble, place the fried polenta in the middle of the plate and carefully place a variety of mushrooms around it. Pour the sauce over each plate and top with the rosemary stems.
|July 31, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
It has been a tireless effort attempting to create the “perfect pesto.” I have made this raw sauce many times over the years, only to pour it over pasta or dip bread into it and say, “that’s not quite right.”
Typically, my pesto suffers from using too much garlic. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of raw garlic, I just don’t like the after taste it leaves in my mouth for the next five days after I eat it.
The other thing I have found is that I tend to underestimate the amount of basil that is required to give the sauce enough flavor. Truly, unless you want to spend $20 on basil at the grocery store, the only time it makes sense to make pesto is during the summer months when the farmers markets or your home garden is overflowing with it.
That is exactly what happened to me during the month of July. I got back from an extensive amount of travelling for work to find my basil plants overflowing with fresh leaves. I tore off about 1/3 of the basil off my plants and was left with this quantity:
If you can’t tell from the picture, I would say this was about 15 loosely packed cups of basil. Broken down and incorporated in the food processor with parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil, it reduced in size to about 2 cups of pesto sauce.
So in addition to getting the garlic quantity correct (I used abot 3/4 of a large, grated, garlic clove) and using the right amount of basil, I also choose a great olive oil. The one I selected was from California and it was neither too fruity nor too mild (this is available at Costco for those who want to give it a try!). I thought that this particular EVOO truly enhanced the flavor of basil instead of competing with it.
So I am not sure if this time it was luck, the quality of ingredients or success after many trial and error attempts, but it was absolutely fantastic! Tommy and I used it as a sauce for grilled vegetables and chicken, but it would be fantastic over pasta or used as a dipper for bread as well!
The bonus of making the “perfect pesto” is that you can basically do nothing but add salt and pepper to the veggies and chicken, throw them on the grill, and have a gourmet dinner in a matter of minutes. The sauce elevates these simple flavors so much!
Perfect Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Veggies – Serves 3-4
15 cups (2 larges bunches) of loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 –1 garlic clove, grated with a microplane
1/3 cup EVOO (more or less depending on your desired thickness)
Salt + Pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp of each)
1 medium red onion, cut into large pieces
2 bell peppers, seeds and membranes removed, cut into quarters
8 new potatoes (fingerlings, red, yellow all work great), par boiled (cook in water until tender)
1 lb cremini mushrooms, halved
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
S+P and cooking spray for veggies and chicken.
To make the pesto, add the basil to the bowl of the food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the pine nuts and parmesan cheese and mix together in the food processor until incorporated. Using the spout of the food processor, slowly pour in the olive oil until it is all gone and the sauce has come together. Remove the lid, and grate the garlic clove directly into the bowl of the food processor. Mix everything together one last time. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To make the veggies, process everything (de-seed, chop, etc.) and place them on pre-soaked wooded skewers or metal skewers. Spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper.
To prep the chicken, skewer the thighs or breasts and spray with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Grill everything until the veggies are crispy and have nice grill marks and the chicken is cooked through.
Serve with pesto sauce and enjoy!
|July 23, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
Do I have a recipe for you! This is the ultimate comfort food with the quality of ingredients turned way up!
This lobster pot pie is so rich and so delicious, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it for days! I know I couldn’t. The base of the pot pie is, obviously, lobster.
And while lobster meat is certainly not cheap, especially for those of us who don’t live on the ocean, this is a worthwhile indulgence.
As I mentioned to you when I made lobster rolls, you can buy cooked lobster meat at most fish mongers. One place I found in Chicago actually offers cooked frozen lobster meat for the same price as live lobsters. And while I was originally skeptical of using frozen lobster, the taste and texture ended up being just like the fresh variety.
This got me thinking. I spend a lot of of time in Boston and Cape Cod, where lobster is relatively inexpensive. Why couldn’t I buy some, cook it up there, freeze it, and bring it back to Chicago, ready to use any time I needed a lobster fix? Well, that’s exactly what I did!
And while there are a lot of great things you can do with lobster meat – lobster bisque, lobster rolls, steamed with butter – there was nothing better I could think of on a rainy day in Chicago but making lobster pot pie.
Lobster Pot Pie – Serves 4 (inspired by Ina Garten’s Recipe)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (approximately 1 large onion)
- 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
- 2 1/2 sticks of butter, divided
- 3 1/2 cups flour, divided
- 2 1/2 cups lobster, fish or clam stock
- 3/4 pound cooked fresh lobster meat, cut into large pieces (approximately 4 lbs of live lobster)
- 1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh peas
- 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 6 to 8 TB cold water
- 1 egg
- S+P to taste
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
To make pie crust: combine 3 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Dice 1 1/2 sticks of very cold butter and add to bowl along with the shortening and pulse until pea sized balls start to form. Then, with the food processor running, pour the cold water into the food processing mouth feed until a ball dough forms. Place the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes until chilled.
If using one large pie pan, roll out half the dough and place in the pan. I used individual sized pie pans so catered the recipe to fit those molds.
To make the filling for the pot pie, add 1 stick of butter to a medium sized sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Add the diced onions and fennel and sauté for 10-15 minutes until they are soft but not browned.
Add 1/2 cup of flour to the pan and cook for 3 more minutes to cook out the raw flour taste.
Add the stock and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and allow the mixture to thicken enough so that it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Combine the lobster meat, peas and parsley in a separate bowl.
Add the onion, fennel, flour and butter mixture over the lobster, peas and parsley and gently stir to combine, trying not to break up the lobster.
Pour the filling into the pie pan(s).
Roll out remaining dough and place on top of the pie.
Crimp the two pieces of crust together, brush with egg wash (1 egg and a splash of water) and make a couple of slits on the top of the dough to let steam escape.
Place in oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top crust is browned and the filling is bubbling.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes and serve!
|July 9, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
Nothing says late spring/early summer to me more than asparagus and strawberries. These items are at the height of their freshness (and thus the best tasting) during this time of year and I like to fill my refrigerator produce drawers full of them.
I actually had intended to make this dish and post this recipe a few weeks ago, during the true height of the season, but as you may have noticed, I am not really blogging much. Unfortunately, I am travelling for work every single week and unable to get my butt into the kitchen as often as I would like. Plus, even if I do get creative with a recipe, I am finding it difficult to find the time to write! Don’t fear though! The work travel finishes at the end of July and I will return to regular recipe creation and blog posting!
Until then (and don’t worry – I will try and post a couple recipes from now until then as well), I leave you with this wonderful recipe that was inspired by one that my dear friend (and the cutest pregnant person around) Laura.
After seeing the pictures, Laura will have to tell me whether my version looks like hers!
One of the things I loved about this dish (in addition to the delicious flavor, fresh produce and creamy goat cheese . . .) was the beautiful pink color of the risotto.
Wouldn’t this be the perfect appetizer or entrée for a homemade Valentine’s dinner? Granted, if you lived in Illinois, like I do, you wouldn’t be able to use super fresh local ingredients, but thanks to warm weather climates like Florida and California, we luckily can get great tasting produce all year round!
As you can see from the pictures, I also drizzled some reduced, and thickened, balsamic vinegar all over the top of the risotto. I thought it brought the entire dish together and I recommend using it. However, Tommy thought it made the dish too sweet. If you are not prone to mixing sweet and savory items, I would recommend leaving the balsamic out. However, even if you aren’t a sweet person, don’t think you can’ t make this dish! The strawberries adds acidity and a nice tartness, not sweetness!
So if you are in the mood to try something new, I can’t recommend this recipe enough. Thanks Laura for your inspiration!
Risotto with Strawberries, Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese – Serves 4
- 1-2 bunch(es) of asparagus (I like a lot of asarpargus, if you don’t need as much, one bunch will suffice), cut into 1.5 inch pieces and roasted with EVOO, S+P at 400 degrees for 20 minute
- 1 pint of strawberries, chopped
- 1.5 cups Arborio rice
- 2 TB butter
- 2 TB EVOO
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 1 QT chicken stock (or water)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
- S+P to taste
- 4 ounce goat cheese
In a small sauce pan, heat up the chicken stock or water over low heat until just warmed through.
In a medium sauce pan over medium low heat, melt the butter and olive oil together. Add minced shallots, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, but not browned – about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often, in the olive oil, butter and shallots, until lightly toasted, but not burnt. Add 1/2 cup of wine to the rice and stir often until the wine is nearly evaporated. Add 1/2 cup of warmed chicken stock to the pot. Cook over medium low heat until the chicken stock is absorbed in the rice. Repeat with the remaining chicken stock, adding a ladleful at a time and allowing it to be nearly entirely absorbed before adding more (if you need more than a quart of chicken stock, just use water).
Once the rice is approximately 3/4 of the way done (you can tell because it is just starting to get creamy, but there is still a “bite” to the rice), add the chopped strawberries and mix until incorporated. Cook until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy (adding more liquid as necessary per directions above). At this point taste the risotto for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed (1/4 tsp to start of each).
In a separate small saucepan, heat up the balsamic vinegar (if using) and reduce by approximately 1/2, making sure it doesn’t burn. Once it has reduced, remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
Once the risotto has finished cooking, add the roasted and chopped asparagus pieces to the pot and stir everything to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Add a large spoonful of the risotto in a shallow bowl or dish, top with goat cheese and drizzle with reduced balsamic vinegar if using.