Nov 29, 2010

Seasonal Salads

Fennel, Pomegranate, & Orange Salad
I love this salad – it’s delicious and refreshing, especially coming out of a week of pure gluttony. It’s incredibly easy to put together; the only challenging part is extracting the seeds from the pomegranate, however if that part seems daunting, buy seeds that are already extracted. Aside from being just plain tasty, this salad is quite versatile – there are a number of different combinations you can make. I’ve thrown prosciutto on top for some added salty goodness and I’ve also had a fennel, orange and black olive salad that’s delicious. I kept this dressing simple – olive oil, salt and pepper; however if you want a little extra twang, throw in a splash of white balsamic. 

Ingredient List
1 fennel
1 orange
1 pomegranate – deseeded
splash of olive oil
s&p, to taste 

Method
Cut the fronds off the fennel then cut the bulb in half. Slice the bulb into 1 ½ inch pieces. Peel the orange and cut the pieces in thirds. Deseed your pomegranate.

Throw all of the ingredients into a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, s&p and balsamic, if using.

Enjoy!

Variations
Prosciutto is great with this salad.

If pomegranate seeds turn you off, use black olives instead.

Balsamic is optional – it’s a matter of preference.
Playlist
Caitlin: Since this is pretty quick and easy to put together, an entire album would be too long so here are a couple songs that reflect the easy and simple salad.
Belly "Feed the Tree"
Pixies "Hey"

Drink of Choice 
Caitlin: A Hansen's mandarin lime soda.

Fig & Prosciutto Salad with Goat Cheese Medallions
This salad is a meal in itself. The salty and sweet combination make it a satisfying, tasty dish. The goat cheese medallions and white balsamic vinaigrette add a nice bit of tang. I chose and recommend to crisp the prosciutto, however, if you prefer, you do not have to do this. I feel crisping it brings out the saltiness even more, which I like. I enjoyed my salad with some crusty French baguette. I also recommend serving a cup or bowl of minestrone soup for a heartier meal.  With all the wonderful fruit and veggies available during the Fall you can get creative with this salad.   

Ingredient List
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt
Pepper
2 tbs pecorino romano cheese *optional
7 – 8 goat cheese rounds
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, put in a ramekin
½ cup bread crumbs, put in a ramekin
6 figs, quartered
¼ lb prosciutto, sliced thin
1 bunch of romaine, washed and rougly chopped
1 bunch of radicchio, washed and chopped
Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (for goat cheese medallions).

1)    To make the vinaigrette:  In a small bowl whisk vinegar, olive, salt, pepper, minced garlic and pecorino-romano cheese.  Set aside.

2)    To make the Goat Cheese Medallions: Slice goat cheese with dental floss (in order to make a cleaner cut).  Roll the goat cheese into small ball shapes, dip in olive oil and breadcrumbs. Place goat cheese on baking sheet and bake until breadcrumbs are golden. Make sure to turn medallions over halfway through baking in order for them to brown on both sides.

3)    Tear prosciutto into pieces and crisp in a sauté pan over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes.

4)   Combine lettuces (romaine & radicchio) with prosciutto and figs.  Arrange 2 medallions on each plate per serving.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and enjoy!

Variations
You can roast acorn squash instead of using the figs.

You can also omit the prosciutto and make this salad completely veggie.

Playlist
Monica: As the holiday weekend came to an end, I felt great and enjoyed making this fresh meal.  These are the songs that complemented my salad making process perfectly:
1)    Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding
2)    Where It’s At – Beck
3)    Blitzkrieg Bop – The Ramones
4)    The Fool on the Hill – The Beatles
5)    Mal Bicho – Los Fabulosos Cadillacs

Drink of Choice
Monica: I craved a tart bubbly drink, so I opted for some Sparkling Apple Cider.

A Recipe to Remember?
I will definitely make this again, and try using the roasted acorn squash.

Cranberry Deliciousness

Cranberries are a staple during the holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving.  These are two recipes that you are sure to love. Caitlin made her favorite Cranberry Sauce recipe. Monica made Cranberry Muffins from a cranberry bread recipe.  So if you have cranberries leftover or are looking for something sweetly tart the Cranberry Sauce is quick and delicious; and although the Cranberry Muffins are bit more labor intensive (but still easy enough), they are a great compliment to the traditional holiday fare.  Let the holidays begin!

Apple-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Caitlin:  This is the best cranberry sauce I’ve ever had – it’s from Williams Sonoma’s website, and I’ve used it every year for the past few holidays. The orange juice and boiled rind combined with the cloves and cinnamon are fantastic and add a sweetness that really compliment the tart cranberries. One taste and you’ll be adding it to your repertoire every year. I made this for Thanksgiving but recently topped the leftovers on some roasted chicken breasts I made with garlic, rosemary and olive oil. Simple and delicious – and yet another way to use those leftover cranberries.

Ingredient List
1/2 orange
2 cups water
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith McIntosh
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Method
Squeeze the juice from the orange and set the juice aside. Remove and discard the membrane from inside the orange rind and cut the rind into small dice. In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the rind and the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Peel, core and quarter the apple. Cut into ½ inch dice and place in a saucepan. Sort the cranberries, discarding any soft ones. Add to the apples along with the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan partially. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, the apple is tender and the cranberries have burst, 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the cranberry sauce to a heatproof bowl and let cool for 1 hour before serving.


Variations
I've always put an extra cinnamon stick in for extra flavor - let it cook with the fruit then take it out before serving.

Drink of Choice
Because you're more than likely going to be eating this with either turkey or chicken, I suggest a Sauvignon Blanc.

A Recipe to Remember?
Yes; this is my favorite cranberry sauce recipe and one that I'll be making for years to come.    

   Cranberry Muffins
Monica:  My mom always makes these delicious loaves of cranberry bread for Thanksgiving.  They are buttery and crumbly.  I decided to change it up a bit and serve them as muffins.  They can be served with butter or clotted cream (if you dare), because they almost have a scone-like texture.  One bite, and you will be hooked.  This recipe has existed for more than 60 years and continues to be passed down generation to generation, because it is so good.  Enjoy!

Ingredient List
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup sour cream
1/3 cup orange juice (no pulp)
½ cup fresh cranberries, sliced in half
2 ¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Method
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour 1 loaf pan.

In a separate bowl sift flour; add baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-large bowl cream butter with sugar; add egg (beat well), add sour cream, orange juice and cranberries.  Add flour mixture to the bowl and stir until just combined. 
Add batter to loaf pan or distribute into muffin cups (should make about 24 muffins).  Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.  Let cool, slice and enjoy!

Variations
If you make these into muffins, you can add some chunks of white chocolate or white chocolate chips and a bit of orange zest as well.  This will make the muffins even more special; and they would be great for Christmas breakfast as well.

Drink of Choice
If eating these on their own – I suggest hot tea, my suggestion would be a nice Green Tea.

A Recipe to Remember?
I look forward to this bread each holiday season. 

Nov 22, 2010

Creamy Parsnip Soup

Last week someone said, after reading our post, that parsnips are quite possibly the most underused and under-appreciated vegetable – we couldn’t agree more. So in honor of the almighty parsnip, we made a creamy soup. It’s rich, flavorful and pays homage to a great tasting root veg. We decided to serve it in shot glasses to show a creative way to start off a meal.

Caitlin: Parsnips are one of my favorite winter veggies – I use them in anything I can; from soups, stews, sides to salads. I think this would make a great starter for Thanksgiving – and serving it in shot glasses is a cute way to get everyone excited about what’s coming next. I decided to add some celery to the leeks as they were sautéing for more flavor. I also topped mine with toasted salted peanuts, crushed with a little breadcrumbs - it added a nice salty texture.
Monica: Never tried Cream of Parsnip soup you say??? Well, you should! It is not only creamy and delightful; it is the perfect way to start a meal.  Because the soup purees to a smooth cream – I decided to add some crunchy garlic chips to not only add a touch of pungency, but also crunch.  If you prefer shallots, you can fry those up in the same way as well, and top your soup.  If you are serving this before a meal, it is a good idea to use shot glasses or any other small crystal glasses or cups, that way you don’t get too full before the main course.  The soup is rather easy to make, once everything is chopped, you just have to boil and puree. If you decide to add the garlic chips or fried shallots – you can fry them while the parsnips, veggies, and apples are cooking.

Ingredient List
2 tbsp butter
2 cups leeks
1 celery stalk, optional
1 pound (about 2 large) parsnips – peeled, cut
2 apples – peeled, cored, cut
1 medium potato – peeled, cut
1 can, or 14.5 oz of chicken broth
½ cup cream

Method
Heat butter, add leeks (and celery, if using).
Cook for about 5 minutes.

Add parsnips, apples, potatoes, broth and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, and simmer until vegetables are soft – about 25 minutes.

Cool slightly and puree the soup. Return to pan – stir in the cream and season with s&p.
 
Garlic Chips
3 -4 Cloves, Thinly sliced
¼ cup Canola Oil (about 1” in depth, in pot)

Heat the oil over medium-high heat.  The oil should reach about 325 degrees (if you have a thermometer), if not, let it heat for about 3 minutes.  Work in small batches, and add the garlic chips and fry for about 1 ½ minutes (until golden).  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel to cool.  If you like, you can add a dash of salt once the chips are cool.

Variations
Garlic chips are great option, not only for presentation, but for an added flavor.
You can add celery to the base for added flavor.

Playlist
Caitlin: I was looking through our music and I found an old cd that my husband made for me when we were dating. Some of the bands are: The Tindersticks, Pavement, Avalanches, Belle and Sebastian among many others. Brought back good memories.
Monica: You can serve this to start your meal.  If you use shot glasses or small cups, they can also be served as an appetizer while people are mingling about.  Here are some  pre-dinner music options: 
     1)    “Dream a Little Dream” the Mamas & the Papas
2)    “A Kiss to Build a Dream On” Louis Armstrong
3)    “Falling Slowly” The Frames
4)    “Daydream Believer” the Monkees
5)    “That’s It, I Quit, I’m Movin’ On” Adele

Drink of Choice
Monica: You can choose to drink your soup, but if you would like something to compliment the subtle taste, I would recommend a tart Pomegranate Martini.
Caitlin: I agree with Monica and suggest a sweeter martini.

Sweet Potato Bake Topped with Coconut & Brown Sugar

I don’t know about you, but I must have sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. This recipe is one of my favorites. It is almost dessert-like, however, is savory enough to be served with the main course. The coconut and brown sugar topping adds the right amount of sweetness and crunch contrasted with the smooth sweet potato layer. It is an easy recipe to prep and pop in the oven while the turkey is cooking. The flavors embody the season and holiday – you will definitely be going for seconds (or thirds). If you have pecans on hand, you can add those to the topping as well. Delicious!

Ingredient List
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter melted
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut


Method
Preheat oven to 350.

Boil sweet potatoes until tender, peel and mash. Mash sweet potatoes with vanilla.



In a 9 x 13 baking pan, spread mashed sweet potatoes in pan. Set aside.
Combine melted butter, flour, pecans, brown sugar, and coconut together. 
Once combined, top the mashed sweet potatoes with this layer. 
Cover and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling.

Variations 
Add a cup of pecans or walnuts to the coconut-brown sugar topping.

If you want some extra sweetness (and why not, it’s the holidays), add some mini marshmallows the last 10 minutes of baking. Or if you have leftovers, you can always add marshmallows to the serving you heat up the next day.


Playlist

Monica: You will most likely be eating this with the rest of your meal. So here are some great musical selections for the “main event”:
1) “Dancing in the Dark” Cannonball Adderley
2) “Something” The Beatles
3) “Northern Sky” Nick Drake
4) “Caminando Por La Calle” Gipsy Kings
5) “Rich Woman” Robert Plant & Allison Krauss

Drink of Choice
Monica: Whatever you are drinking with your Thanksgiving meal – for me, that will probably be a glass of Riesling.

A Recipe to Remember?
It has become a favorite in my family and is a traditional dish that I’ve enjoyed for over 10 years. I hope it becomes a favorite for you and your family and friends as well.

Nov 18, 2010

Cream Cheese Flan

Flan is more versatile than one might think.  Many of us are familiar with the custardy, soft flans often served in Mexican restaurants.  What is special about this flan is the use of cream cheese.  The consistency is luscious and velvety smooth - and the cream cheese makes this flan similar to cheesecake that can also be flavored with holiday favorites like pumpkin or chocolate.
Caitlin: I had never made flan before this, so suffice to say I was a little nervous. Not to mention my husband is a flan connoisseur – no pressure or anything. However, everything came together so nicely that I wondered why I’ve never attempted it sooner. What I loved about the addition of cream cheese is that it added a velvety and almost cheesecake like consistency that I’ve never tasted in a flan before. I decided to leave out the coconut and add some chocolate and a touch of cinnamon instead – delicious!

Monica:  I am extremely picky when it comes to flan because I am not the biggest fan of custard, especially if it tastes & smells like eggs.  Let me tell you something, even if you think you don’t like flan, if you like cheesecake, then you will love this (I can almost guarantee it)!  I opted to add coconut to my flan and I have seen this done two ways – one way is to add coconut milk and the other is to add flaked coconut – I chose the flaked coconut because I liked the added texture. Try it, you might like it! 


Ingredient List
1 1/2 cups sugar
½  cup water
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
6 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk (from the can)
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½  tsp salt
**If making coconut flan use: ¼ cup flaked coconut
***If adding chocolate use: 3 oz. semisweet chocolate & a dash of cinnamon 

Method    
Preheat oven to 350°F. 

To make the caramel:
Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan over medium-low heat or use a non-stick pan until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring (but you can swirl the pan if necessary) until the sugar turns an amber color. Be careful to watch the sugar so it doesn’t burn! Immediately pour caramel into 9x5 inch glass baking dish (or flan mold if you have one), coat bottom with caramel. Cool. It sets quickly.
To make the custard:
Beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Beat in sweetened condensed milk, then add eggs. Add evaporated milk, vanilla, salt, and whole milk; beat and blend well.

**If using coconut, add at this point. 

***If using chocolate, melt chocolate in microwave or on the stove top. Once the chocolate is melted add cinnamon, pour into the flan mixture and combine.
Pour mixture into caramel dish. Place dish in 9x13 inch metal baking pan or roasting pan. Add enough hot water to pan about 2 inches up sides of dish – creating a water bath. Bake until knife comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Remove flan from water bath. Cool & once cool, refrigerate for 2 hours. You can also prepare & leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

To remove flan from mold, run a knife carefully around the edges of the pan to loosen the flan, be careful not to cut into the custard. Hold a serving platter (make sure it’s larger than the flan pan) over the top of the flan and invert. Gently shake the pan to release. It’s okay if the caramel drizzles around the sides of the flan, let it flow. Serve & enjoy!
Caitlin's Version

Monica's Version
Variations
You can add chocolate, coconut, or even pumpkin to your mixture. 

You can use coconut milk and cream of coconut instead of flaked coconut.

Playlist
Caitlin: Well, A Hard Days Night was on television, and my little guy and I were watching it – he loves the Beatles.
Monica:  I chose songs that seemed to invoke the decadent, luscious flan:
     1) “Nessun Dorma”  Luciano Pavarotti
2)  "Let's Stay Together” Al Green
3)  “Hold On”  Neko Case
4)  “Move On Up”  Curtis Mayfield
     5)  “I’ll Stand By You”  The Pretenders

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: A nice hot Mexican champurrado, of course!!
Monica:  Honey Vanilla Chamomile – it is light, but the hint of  vanilla compliments the vanilla in the flan.

A Recipe to Remember?
Of course!  It will be a recipe we will be making, especially around the holidays.

Nov 17, 2010

Monica's Dish of the Week: Albondigas

My family’s recipe for Albondigas, is a contemporary take on the traditional Mexican favorite.  This soup makes a great meal on a cool evening especially when served with fresh tortillas – flour or corn, it’s your choice.  I prefer to eat my soup garnished with cilantro and fresh slices of serrano chiles because they add a bright flavor to the soup. I also love filling up a tortilla with fresh slices of avocado and a pinch of salt; and eating that along with the soup. It definitely is Mm, Mm, Good! 

Ingredient List
1 ½ lbs ground sirloin
1/3 cup rice
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt (or salt to taste)
½ bunch of kale
1 chayote, cut in cubes
5 – 7 carrots, cut each carrot in thirds
2 tbs tomato sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Cilantro (optional)
3 thinly sliced serrano chiles (optional)

Method
Fill half of a 6-qt stock pot with water – put on stove, heat over medium-high heat.
                                                        
Mix ground sirloin, rice, cumin, kosher salt by hand.  Combine well.  Once combined, form into small meatballs.
Once meatballs are made, add to boiling water. 

After about 10 minutes, if using kale, add to soup. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, then add the chayote, carrots and tomato sauce.  While it’s boiling, taste and add salt to your preference.

Continue cooking for 20 – 25  minutes, or until veggies are soft.  Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

Let cool for a few minutes.  Garnish with cilantro & thinly sliced serranos (if you like) and serve with tortillas or tostadas and sliced avocado.  Enjoy!

Variations
You can add different veggies to your soup like: onion, zucchini, and potatoes. I prefer to keep it simple, but it tastes great either way.

 Playlist
My choices are a few favorite songs en español: 
1)  “Esa Noche” Café Tacuba
2) “Sabor a Mi” Luis Miguel
3)  "Me Voy”  Julieta Venegas
4)  “Amante Bandido” Miguel Bose
5)  “Mi Tierra”  Gloria Estefan

Drink of Choice
 Strawberry Peñafiel (which is like a flavored seltzer) – yum!

A Recipe to Remember?
This is my form of comfort food – it is a go to recipe for me when I want something warm and satisfying.