|May 20, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
It’s no secret that I am absolutely crazy about artichokes. They are hands down, far and away, my favorite vegetable. I love them so much that I eat them all year round even though they are truly at the height of their season during spring.
Because they are so great in the spring, I basically take that as an invitation to up my artichoke eating quota from once a week to twice a week at a minimum. And while I am content eating them steamed with butter or stuffed with breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan (or just about any way you could think of) I also love to incorporate them into pasta.
Removing the leaves and shaving or cutting the heart very thinly allows the artichoke to cook significantly faster than if it was left whole, so you can get this on the table in no time.
When you combine the fresh artichokes with the creamy and tangy goat cheese and lots of fresh lemon juice, the resulting recipe screams spring flavors. The only trick to this recipe is making sure the artichokes don’t turn brown. They oxidize quickly, but the process can be slowed down by soaking the artichokes in lemon water.
If you can’t find fresh artichokes, feel free to substitute in canned whole artichoke hearts. You won’t get the fresh texture or flavor, but the combination of flavors will still be delicious. Enjoy!
Artichoke Pasta with Lemon and Goat Cheese – Serves 4
1 lb bowtie pasta
4 artichokes, leaves and tough outer part of stem removed, hearts sliced
Juice of three lemons
4-6 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup EVOO
S+P to taste
To prep the artichokes, fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Once the juice is squeezed, add the lemons to the water. Once the water is ready, you can start to remove the leaves of the artichoke. I think the easiest way to do this is to cut the top half of the leaves off the artichoke entirely, then start removing the tough outer leaves one by one. Once you have removed the tough leaves, you can start to cut off the thinner, softer leaves that are closer to the heart. Once you just have a few layers of thin leaves, cut the artichoke in half length wise so that the choke and heart are exposed. Using a grapefruit knife or spoon, entirely remove the choke. Next up, use a vegetable peeler to cut down the stem to remove the tough outside. Once you have done all this, place the artichokes in the water until you are ready to use (here is a great tutorial of how to do this whole process).
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the pasta and cook per package directions. Drain and set aside.
While the pasta is cooking, remove the artichokes from the water and slice very thinly. Place back in the water until you are ready to cook.
In a large skillet, add the EVOO and heat over a medium flame until hot. Drain the sliced artichokes and drop into the hot oil. Stir often to make sure the artichokes don’t burn. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes until the artichokes are just tender.
Add the drained pasta to the pan with the artichokes and oil and stir to combine. Add the juice of two lemons. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and add crumbles of goat cheese. Serve warm.
|May 17, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Breakfast/Brunch|
This year, we had a special treat for Mother’s Day – Tommy’s mom was in Chicago! We had a really wonderful weekend including visits to the Purple Pig, a trip to the Art Institute and dinner at a Polish restaurant called Starapolska (Tommy’s family is of Polish decent, so we wanted to get some tasty Polish food). The weekend ended with a brunch at our place featuring the Mom of honor (Sarah also visited with Matilda because let’s face it – she is a fur mom!).
Brunch for a crowd can be tricky. So many breakfast dishes require standing over a pan slaving away while your guests are enjoying the party without. For this reason, I make it a cook as many items ahead of time as I can. This way I can just pop the dishes back in the oven to heat up as my guests arrive so I don’t miss out on any of the fun.
The other tricky thing about brunch is what to serve. I find people are very particular about what they like to eat in the morning – sweet, savory, eggs, lox, etc. I think the safe bet is to serve one savory and one sweet dish at a minimum. If you are hosting a big brunch, then its best to serve a couple of each.
I also always like to serve a dishes that cater to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. And in my opinion, you have to serve the one staple brunch item that everyone can agree on – mimosas. If you are most ambitious than me, bloody marys and mimosas would be great.
So my menu this past Sunday I thought about what everyone would like. Carol, for example, really only likes eating eggs that she cooks herself, so I knew I didn’t want to do eggs benedict or a big batch of scrambled eggs. Sarah doesn’t eat meat, so I made sure that one of the savory items was veggie friendly. And finally, Tommy loves bacon, so I made sure to cook up a batch to go along with brunch.
For the sweeter offerings, I made a baked french toast recipe from Ina Garten. To me, this recipe epitomizes what I talked about above. French toast is a great brunch item, but I don’t want to individually make each portion. By making a baked french toast dish, I get the flavors and textures I love about this dish, without the hands on time it typically requires.
Also on the sweet side, I put out a big platter of fresh fruit. One of my favorite elements of a big brunch buffet is a gorgeous offering of a variety of fruit.
I choose raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and honeydew for my platter to showcase a variety of colors and incorporate lots of different fruit flavors.
As for the savory dishes, I opted to go with a couple of quiches. I think quiches are great at any time of day, but work particularly well at brunch because it satisfies any egg desires without having to worry about how people like their eggs cooked.
As I mentioned above, Sarah doesn’t eat meat. Because of this, I made sure one of these quiches were filled with lots of veggies and didn’t sacrifice on flavor. The combination I came up with was fabulous and will absolutely be replicated in the future – goat cheese and mushroom quiche with fresh basil.
Take note of that beautiful pie crust work – Tommy made it! As for the other quiche, I went with the standard Quiche Lorraine, which was delicious as ever!
I missed my mom on Mother’s Day, but was happy to celebrate with Tommy’s. This menu was also so good that I could definitely make it again for my mom once she gets back in town!
Goat Cheese and Mushroom Quiche with Fresh Basil – Serves 6
1/2 recipe for perfect pie crust
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk or cream (I used 50% milk 50% half and half)
1 lb button mushrooms
8 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup fresh basil
2 TB butter
S+P to taste
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
After you have made the pie crust, place in a 9 inch pie dish and par bake for 10 minutes. There are two methods to par baking. You can either prick the dough lightly with a fork all over or place tin foil with dried beans on top of the dough to ensure that the sides don’t collapse and the bottom doesn’t puff up.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add mushrooms and cook until softened and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
To make the quiche filling, combine the beaten eggs, milk or cream and salt and pepper in a large bowl until well combined.
To prepare the quiche for the final cooking stage, take the par baked crust out of the oven and evenly spread the mushrooms, basil and goat cheese over the surface.
Then pour the egg and cream mixture over the toppings. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.
|May 15, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner, Lunch, Parties|
A few weeks ago, my beloved Green City Market opened for the season. Granted, the market didn’t feature the bounty of summer, but it did still have a great selection of farm fresh items. One of my favorite spring time vegetables is asparagus and I was happy to see that many of the vendors were selling a number of varieties – thin and thick, purple and green. I opted to buy the thick cut (more flavor in my opinion) green variety.
These babies were so beautiful! While I contemplated just steaming them up and serving them alongside a piece of fish, I decided to get a bit more creative and turn them into the base of a cream of asparagus soup.
This proved to be an excellent decision. The soup had the perfect amount of creaminess, slight tang from fresh lemon juice, and a wonderful crunch thanks to homemade saffron flavored croutons.
This recipe was actually a slightly adapted version of an asparagus soup recipe of my mom’s that I have made many times. Hers is a “healthified” version of cream of asparagus soup which replaces the cream for potatoes to thicken the soup and add the right texture. And while I love that soup, I wanted an option that was a little bit more refined and truly allowed the asparagus to shine.
Speaking of asparagus – did you notice that the asparagus were sitting in water glasses in the above picture?
This is how I store asparagus! I find that, like fresh flowers, asparagus responds really well to being stored in water. They stay tender and maintain their vibrant color for at 3-5 days in the fridge (but of course, the earlier you use the asparagus, the fresher it will taste!).
Anyway, back to the soup. This would be the perfect starter to a fancy dinner party, but works equally well alongside a big salad on a busy weeknight because the whole thing comes together in 30 minutes.
However you enjoy it, just make sure you give it a try when the asparagus is at its freshest – a.k.a RIGHT NOW!
Cream of Asparagus Soup with Saffron Croutons – Serves 4-6 as an appetizer
- 2 lbs asparagus
- 1/2 stick butter
- 3 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups water
- S+P to taste
- Fresh lemon juice (approximately the juice of one lemon is what I used)
- 3-4 slices of any variety of bread (I chose a multigrain variety), crusts removed and cut into small cubes
- 2 TB EVOO
- 1/3 tsp saffron threads
In order to remove the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I simply take the asparagus and bend lightly. Wherever the asparagus bends is the place where the tough meets the tender. Discard the tough pieces (keep if you make your own veggie stock!).
In a large stock pot, add the butter and melt over medium low heat. Once melted, add the chopped shallots and cook until they are soft, but not browned, about five minutes.
Add the cream, water, salt (start with 2 tsp) and pepper to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil. Add the asparagus, lower to a simmer, and cook until the asparagus is tender, but still has a bright green color, about five minutes.
Now it is time to puree the soup. Working in batches, add the contents of the pot into a blender and puree until smooth.
I found that the texture of the soup was perfect for me. Slightly thick, but very smooth. If you prefer a finer texture, you can push the contents of the soup through a fine mesh sieve.
Add the soup back to the pot and keep warm until you are ready to serve. Taste and adjust for seasonings as necessary. Right before serving, add enough lemon juice to taste. You certainly don’t want the overwhelming flavor of lemon to come through on the soup, but you want enough to know that it is there. I think 1/2 to a full lemon’s worth of juice is perfect, but let your palate guide you!
While the soup is staying warm, you can make the croutons, which is very easy! In a large sauté pan, add the EVOO and heat over medium-low heat. Add the saffron shreds and cook in the olive oil for 1 minute to infuse the oil. Add the bread and toss to coat in the saffron oil. Spring with salt and pepper and cook until the croutons are golden and toasted.
Serve the soup topped with croutons and one more spray of lemon juice!
|May 13, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner|
Let’s face it. Chicken breast, even on its best day, can be a little boring. Sure it’s can be delicious in some cases – breaded and fried, slow roasted with the bone in and skin on – are a few preparations that come to mind. But on it’s own, chicken breast doesn’t cut it for me. What does cut it for me is a chicken breast that has been stuffed with mozzarella and basil and wrapped in prosciutto.
Not only are mozzarella, basil and prosciutto a fabulous flavor combination, but the fat in the mozzarella and prosciutto also help keep the chicken moist throughout the cooking process.
The end product is far from dry and has the perfect mixture of saltiness from the prosciutto. Stuffing a chicken breast can seem intimidating, but actually, this process was extremely easy. All you do is take a chicken breast, cut it through the middle until it is nearly cut through, and open it up so it lays flat like a pancake (otherwise known as butterflying). If you are anxious about doing this (but don’t be!), you can also have your butcher do this for you. Once the chicken has been butterflied and seasoned with salt and peeper, you add your cheese of choice (blue cheese, brie, manchego and mozzarella are all great choices) and then top with a few leaves of fresh basil.
Once you have stuffed the chicken, you then simply place the cut half back on top of the bottom part of the breast.
Don’t worry if the stuffing is sticking out slightly, as mine is above. The prosciutto will cover it so that you avoid any melting in the pan or grill.
You can count on using about 2 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto to cover each chicken breast completely. When you cook the chicken, the prosciutto will get slightly crisp and is a nice textural contrast to the tender chicken.
I served this chicken with kale chips (what else is new) and a fabulous sweet potato gratin (recipe coming soon) for a well-rounded, healthy weeknight meal!
Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken Breast Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese and Basil – Serves 4
4 6-8 ounce portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied
4 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
S+P to taste
Oil for pan frying
Butterfly chicken breasts and sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Lay 2-3 slices of mozzarella cheese on the chicken breast. Follow with a couple of leaves of basil. Make sure you don’t overstuff the chicken, or you won’t be able to roll it back up. Once you have added the mozzarella and basil, place the top half of the breast on top. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of prosciutto so that it it is completely covered. Note, I think it is easiest for cooking the chicken if the prosciutto is wrapped in such a way that the ends, or seams, are on the same side of the breast.
In a large, heavy set pan (cast iron or stainless steal is best), heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken with the prosciutto seam side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the prosciutto starts to brown and you can easily loosen it from the pan. Cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium-low and continuing cooking the chicken, flipping occasionally, until it is completely cooked through or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and enjoy!
|May 8, 2013||Posted by jcogswell1 under Dinner, Lunch|
I love cobb salad. The combination of creamy avocados, pungent blue cheese, salty bacon, tender chicken, fresh cherry tomatoes, crunchy nuts and crisp lettuce is fabulous. Cobb salad often get a bad rap from the calorie police. I can’t count the number of times I have heard “don’t order cobb salads because they have as many calories as a cheeseburger does.”
I think that there can be some truth to the above statement if you order a cobb salad out at a restaurant. Especially one that is doused in fat laden dressing and contains more bacon than it does lettuce. However, when you made a cobb salad at home, you get to control the quality and quantity of ingredients. And when made right, cobb salad can be a completely satisfying and healthy entrée.
To elevate the flavors of a normal, hum drum cobb salad, I marinate the chicken in a delicious mayo-mustard sauce, use good quality blue cheese, thick cut bacon and very fresh vegetables. I also like the slight crunch that comes from using pine nuts. They have a much milder flavor and texture than other nuts, and when they are toasted, they are the perfect compliment for the salad. For the lettuce, I opt for a combination of bibb (or Boston) lettuce and arugula. I like the pepperiness of the arugula combined with the the crunchiness and buttery-ness of the bibb lettuce.
I also prefer a simple balsamic vinaigrette on my cobb salad, but feel free to exchange the vinegar for lemon if that is your favorite combination. Tommy and I ate this for dinner alongside a delicious bowl of soup (recipe coming soon) and were completely satisfied. If you go without soup, either increase the portion size of the salad or add a crusty piece of bread to go alongside!
Cobb Salad – Serves 4 as Entrees:
3 TB mayo
3 TB dijon mustard, divided
2 large chicken breasts
2 medium sized heads of boston lettuce (about 10 ounces total), trimmed, torn into bite-size pieces, washed and drained well
2 cups arugula
1 large avocado, cut into large pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup crumbled good quality blue cheese (Roquefort is a good option!)
2/3 cup toasted pine nutes
4 slices of thick cut bacon
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for cooking the chicken
S+P to taste
To make the vinaigrette, combine the balsamic, olive oil, 2 TB of dijon mustard and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until incorporated.
Next up is marinating the chicken. You only need to keep this marinade on for 10 minutes to infuse the chicken with flavor and keep it moist throughout the cooking process. Combine the mayo, 1 TB of dijon and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
Slather the chicken with all of the marinade and allow to sit for 10 minutes. While the chicken is marinating, it is time to cook the bacon. Add the bacon slices to a large, dry pan and cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until crisp – about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess oil. Once cooled, crumb into large pieces and reserve.
Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to another pan and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the chicken and cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes per side to get a good sear on the outside. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook the chicken for another 3-4 minutes per side until it is completely cooked through. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large slices.
While the chicken is cooling, you can toast the pine nuts. In a dry small pan, add the pine nuts and toast until slightly browned – about 3 minutes. Watch them carefully because they can burn quickly.
Finally, it is time to put everything together. I think it looks nice to put the lettuce on the bottom of a large salad bowl and then place all the ingredients, in lines, across the top. This makes for a nice presentation. Once all the ingredients are on the salad, pour on the vinaigrette and mix well. Enjoy!