Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wild Rice Salad with Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

Last Thanksgiving I had this side dish at my in-laws house in Minnesota and I was dumbfounded when I ate it. First of all, I loved it, but I couldn't figure out why. I loved the taste of the roasted root vegetables, and the dressing was just right, but there was a flavor in it that I couldn't figure out what it was that just made this dish seem like crack to me--and I got addicted to it.

After my father-in-law sent the me recipe, I made it and then, EUREKA! it hit me. It was the pepitas that I loved. I used to eat pepitas in Mexico all the time and I think it just reminded me of my childhood.

I've made this dish a couple of times since Thanksgiving and I've played around a little with it. First, when I make it I cut the recipe in half because the original recipe below makes a lot of wild rice salad. I use salted pepitas this way I don't have to use much salt after I combine it all, and I also omit the scallions. As for dressing, I cut it by 1/4 because again, the recipe below makes a lot, and the original one had fresh sage in it, but I omitted that, too.

This is a very satisfying side dish and it could also be a meal for a vegetarian or even a dish you can serve for lent since there is no meat involved.

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

  • 4 cups cooked wild rice 

  • 4 small parsnips, cubed 

  • 4 small carrots, cubed 

  • 1 medium squash, cubed 

  • 6 scallions, diced 

  • ½ cup pepitas 
(Mexican prepared pumpkin seeds)
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Put the root vegetables into a large bowl. Toss to lightly coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
Place veggies in a large roasting pan and roast until soft and slightly brown on the outside, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

In a heavy sauté pan heat about 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the pepitas and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until the pepitas start to "pop" and get golden brown. Remove from heat and cool.

Toss everything together with 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette (recipe below). Taste for seasoning and add more vinaigrette, if needed. Serve room temperature or cold.

Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

INGREDIENTS (makes about 2 cups of vinaigrette)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar 

  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard 

  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
2 Tbl. honey 

  • 1 chopped shallot 

  • Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until dressing gets combined. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can also use this vinaigrette as a dressing for any salad. It's pretty good.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Irish Soda Bread (with currants)

As you all know, I am not a baker let alone a bread maker. I leave that job for my husband. But since he is away and I was having a craving for soda bread, I had to make it myself. I was very close to buying a ready made bread mix at the store; all I had to do was add water, but when I saw Ina Garten make this bread on her show, I figured I would give it a try. I used butter instead of shortening in my recipe but the outcome was still good. What I really like about this recipe is that in less than an hour you can have freshly baked soda bread for your family.

INGREDIENTS (makes one loaf)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons solid shortening such as Crisco (I used unsalted butter)
  • 2/3 cup currants mixed with 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar. Using a pastry blender or fingertips, work the shortening into the flour until the consistency is the same as that of small peas. Stir in the raisins and caraway and mix to distribute evenly. Gradually stir in the buttermilk, 1/4 cup at a time, using only enough to allow the dough to come together. Knead the dough for 1 to 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a round loaf and place on a greased baking sheet. Cut an X on the top and over the sides of the loaf. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a rack.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Cinnamon Pecan Buns

This recipe is an ode to my husband, and Stella's daddy, Matt. He made these pecan buns before he was sent out to sea and they were spectacular. The pecan buns were so soft and gooey, and so very delicious. These are specially good with a hot cup of coffee. If you make these, make sure you have a lot of people around to help you eat them. The buns are so much better eaten warm, right after you bake them. We miss you and we love you, Matt. Come home soon!

INGREDIENTS (makes about 15 buns)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (optional)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the bottom and side of a 10-inch springform pan with half of the melted butter.
  2. In a food processor, combine the pecans with the brown sugar, cinnamon and kosher salt; pulse until the nuts are almost finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and sprinkle a scant 3/4 cup over the bottom of the prepared pan. Wipe out the food processor.
  3. Add the cottage cheese, buttermilk, egg yolk, granulated sugar, vanilla and orange zest to the processor and puree until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine the 2 1/4 cups of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and fine salt; whisk to mix. Add the flour mixture to the processor and pulse just until the dough comes together; it will be quite soft and sticky.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it into a smooth ball. Roll out the dough to an 11-by-16-inch rectangle, flouring the work surface as necessary. Brush the dough with the remaining melted butter, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Sprinkle on the remaining pecan-sugar mixture.
  5. Working from a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder and cut it into 1-inch slices. Arrange the slices cut side up in the prepared pan. Bake the buns in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top and slightly firm to the touch. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the buns. Remove the springform ring. Invert the buns onto a plate and carefully remove the bottom of the pan. If any of the pecan mixture sticks to the pan, simply scrape it onto the buns. Serve warm.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Very Easy Chicken Piccata

Not only is chicken piccata very flavorful but it is also quite easy to make and really, really fast. So if you're in a pinch for time, definitely give this recipe a try. I particularly love the briney, salty flavor of the capers, so don't skimp on them. I like to serve my chicken piccata with a side of noodles and crispy, steamed broccoli. I'm getting hungry just writing this!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and slices of lemon, if using, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken and sliced lemons to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

This is what you eat when you haven't shopped in three weeks, you have a baby that doesn't take naps and your paid maternity leave has ended. Cacio e pepe simply means cheese and pepper in Italian. I used egg noodles because that's what I had in my pantry, but spaghetti or even capellini will work with this recipe. Don't forget to reserve some of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce for the pasta. Manga!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, 3 rounded handfuls
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley, optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta and salt it. Add the pasta and cook to al dente. Make sure to save some of the cooking water (about 1/4 cup) for the sauce right before you drain the pasta.

Place a large skillet over low heat with the butter, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and pepper. Let it hang out until the pasta is done.

When the pasta is ready, take a ladle of the starchy cooking water and add it to the butter-pepper mixture. Drain the pasta and toss it in the pan with the sauce. Turn off the heat. Add the cheese in small handfuls, then toss the pasta with tongs, until all the cheese is incorporated into the creamy sauce. Add another ladle of cooking water if needed, then season the pasta to taste with salt and drizzzle with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little chopped parsley, if desired.