October 31, 2012

Grilled Goat Cheese and Kale Sandwich

Goat cheese and Kale sandwich
This is my husband's new favorite sandwich, which is kind of surprising given that his culinary go-to is a hot dog with a slice of melted american cheese rolled in white toast (tasty, but quite different, yes?). This sandwich has warm, tangy goat cheese, earthy kale and zippy lemon zest. The combination makes for a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

There are several varieties of kale, and all are good this time of year, but I like Lacinato because the stems and leaves are tender and it's very pleasant raw, not to mention the fact that it's a nutritional powerhouse.  Lacinato is also delicious in salads that have a punchy vinaigrette.

Grilled Goat Cheese and Kale Sandwich

Serves 2

4 slices sourdough or other rustic, crusty bread
4 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons red onion* (optional)
4 stems Lacinato kale
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from one lemon)
Kosher salt
Olive oil

*The raw onion is fairly assertive, so leave it out if you don't fancy the taste.

1. Dice onion. Trim bottom inch or so from kale, roll into a cigar shape and slice into ribbons. Zest lemon using Microplane or smallest holes on grater.

2. Brush inside of bread with olive oil. Spread goat cheese on one side. Sprinkle on lemon zest, onions (if using) and salt. Pile on kale (it will shrink quite a bit when heated). Top with other slice of bread.

3. Heat heavy skillet (cast-iron is best) over medium-high heat until hot and add olive oil (enough so your sandwich will sizzle when it hits the pan...a few teaspoons). When oil is hot, add sandwich and weigh it down with a heavy pan or a filled water kettle. After a few minutes (check to see if underside is golden brown), lift it up with a spatula, add another bit of olive oil and flip it over. Cook for a few more minutes (you may need to turn down the heat if it's gotten too hot), cut and serve.

Lacinato kale, also called "Dinosaur" or "Tuscan" kale

October 29, 2012

Simple Cauliflower Salad

I'm not kidding when I say this is simple, but it's not for lack of trying. The first version had roasted peppers, olives and garlic, but all I could taste were peppers, olives and garlic. I like cauliflower and I want it to have a starring role. These flavors work well together - nothing overpowers - it's smooth and quiet, and bright and crunchy all at the same time. The eggs add a bit of richness, the nuts some toastiness, and the vinaigrette a little spark. If you have a special salt (i.e., flaked sea salt) it's worth using as a finishing touch.

October 26, 2012

What's the "Yummly" Scoop?

Today I'm guest blogging over on the Yummly site about some pumpkin cookies (definitely worth the calories) AND my CrunchyGooey blog was recently "Certified Yummly"  (meaning tasty, reliable and readable) by the Yummly folks, which is why you see the badge on the top right of this blog. So that makes me happy.

Yummly is a recipe search site where you can find nearly any recipe that's been published online. So it's easy to find whatever your culinary heart desires. Plus the people there are helpful and great to work with. Think I'll make a batch of those cookies to celebrate...

Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars with M&M's

peanut butter cheerios bars with m & m's

Did you know they make M&M's in festive fall colors? I ran into an end-cap display today at the grocery store packed with them. I was really hungry (dangerous to go shopping with low blood sugar), so I grabbed a bag and began to scheme how I could use them — quickly — and get to eating. When I think chocolate, I think peanut butter and then I noticed Cheerio's were on sale so...

Peanut Butter Cheerio Bars with M&M's

Makes 9 large bars

3 tablespoons butter (plus additional for greasing pan)
1 10 ounce bag of marshmallows
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups Cheerio's
1 cup M&M's

Butter inside of 8 x 8 pan and set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan then add marshmallows and stir until melted. Add peanut butter and salt and stir until combined. Add Cheerios and stir as gently and thoroughly as you can. I ended up dumping the sticky mess into a bowl and using my clean hands. Add M&M's and carefully incorporate (many will break, but the color and flavor will be there and you can save a few to put on the top for presentation). Press into prepared pan and cool completely before cutting. 

October 24, 2012

Fried Green Cherry Tomatoes

They say a frost is coming tonight, so I thought I'd better pull out the tomato vines before they freeze in the soil and stay that way until next spring. I had quite a few cherry tomatoes left, albeit green, but I hate to waste good produce that my kids so diligently watered all this dry, hot summer. So why not try fried green tomatoes on a small scale?

These need to be eaten immediately, so have your lucky people sit around while you batter and fry. The crust is salty and crispy and the tiny tomato pops inside with a little tartness. Nice contrast and a perfect bite. These would be really good with a dot of herb mayonnaise (or a dip in Scratch Ranch), but they're also delicious just as they area. Makes saying goodbye to summer a little easier.

Fried Green Cherry Tomatoes
8 or so green cherry tomatoes
1 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup buttermilk* 
Peanut or Canola oil

* If you're out of buttermilk, put a teaspoon of white vinegar in regular milk and let stand for 5 minutes.

Cut the tomatoes into slices, sprinkle with salt and let drain in colander or on paper towels for about 20 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in small bowl. Put buttermilk in another bowl.  Dredge tomato slices in milk, then flour, shake, and set on a plate. Heat oil in heavy pan to until shimmering and gently lay in tomato slices (if they sizzle around the edges, the oil is hot enough). These cook quickly so keep an eye on them and be ready to turn when brown, less than a minute. Two forks work best for flipping these tiny wheels. When golden on both sides, remove to paper towel, sprinkle with salt and enjoy.

P.S. On a lark, I fried up some red cherry tomatoes too. They were also tasty, but a little wet.

October 21, 2012

Poached Apples with Cinnamon Cream

Poached Apples with Cinnamon Cream

This is easy and tasty and a little bit healthy. Warm poached apples with slightly spicy whipped cream.  No big deal and your house will smell like a holiday. The cinnamon sugar gives the whipped cream a tiny bit of less-than-smooth texture which I really like. Suits the rusticity of the dish. I think the apples are best served slightly warm or at room temperature. You can make these ahead of time and keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Let sit out for a bit before serving to warm up.

Poached apples

Serves 4

4 medium sized apples (I used Gala)
2 cups apple juice
1 cup cranberry juice
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Peel and core apples (I don't have an apple corer so I used a paring knife - not pretty, but got the job done.) Bring juice, cinnamon sticks and sugar to a boil, then reduce to simmer and add apples. Simmer for 30 minutes, turning occasionally, or until fork tender. Let cool down in pot.

My daughter asked, "are those donuts?"
Once partially cooled, remove apples and cinnamon stick from pot, strain remaining poaching juice then boil until reduced by half or more into a syrup, about 8 minutes.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a bit less if you want a less assertive cinnamon flavor)

Whip cream with mixer on high speed until almost thickened, then add sugar and cinnamon and beat until it holds a peak.

Slice apples (or not), drizzle with some of the syrup and plop a spoonful of whipped cream on top. Save any extra syrup to mix with sparkling water for a bright and yummy beverage.

Tiny bites are fun too

October 19, 2012

Pistachio Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki

Lamb meatballs

I don't like the word meatball.  It sounds so unappetizing...a wad of meat thrown at you for sustenance. Take a whack.  But I do like to eat them, provided they're small and have good texture and flavor. These fit the bill. So good with cool, creamy tzatziki sauce. Great for dinner on a bed of couscous or on toothpicks as an appetizer.

I could only find "salt and pepper" flavored pistachios at my grocery store (why must they tart everything up?), but they're actually pretty good. I omitted the pepper and some of the salt in the recipe because of it.

October 17, 2012

Whole Wheat Apple Tart

apple tart

My mom was an early natural-foods enthusiast who helped start our first neighborhood co-op back in the 1970's. We'd join her on Saturdays when she'd work her volunteer shift and gawp in horror at the giant plastic slightly unclean looking self-serve bins containing god knows what kind of grains, beans, flours, oils and sludgy peanut butter. Peanut butter?! Was nothing sacred?

But she was ahead of her time in the whole-foods movement at a time when most other mothers were reveling in the glory of boxed, canned and frozen foods (Hamburger Helper, Manwich Sloppy Joes, Hostess Ho-Hos, Swanson dinners, Wonder bread, etc.) Don't get me wrong. We would've been plenty happy with those options, but she insisted on food the slow way, before slow was cool. And now I thank her for it.

So it's no surprise that she recently introduced me to baking with whole wheat pastry flour. Easy to substitute and so much better for you (3 grams of fiber per serving) than white. Tasty too. This is her crust - easy, foolproof, and in true mom style, with no added sugar. So it works equally well with sweet or savory fillings.

Mom's Whole Wheat Crust

Makes enough for one 9 inch crust

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Cut butter into small cubes, put in bowl and place in freezer for 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in food processor and pulse to combine. Add butter in 4 additions, pulsing 8 times after each addition. The dough will look sandy with pea-sized pieces. Add water, one tablespoon at a time, and pulse just until dough comes together. Dump onto sheet of plastic wrap and gather into a flat disk. Wrap and refrigerate for one hour and up to three days.

Cold butter
Sand and peas
Filling and Syrup
From Alice Waters The Art of Simple Food

4-5 large granny smith apples
4-5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter

Apple syrup

Peels and cores
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375º

Roll out dough on floured surface (it will be sticky) into the shape of your tart pan, about 1/4 inch thick.  Don't worry if it's not perfect - if it tears, just patch it together. The apples will cover it. Press gently into sides and bottom. Prick with fork and refrigerate while you peel and slice apples.

Peel apples and slice into 1/8 inch thick crescents. Save peels and cores for apple syrup.

Place apple slices in tart shell in whatever pretty pattern you like, but pack them tightly together. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar (this will create browning and a yummy applesaucey base inside the tart). Bake for 35 minutes or until pastry is golden and apples are tender.

To make apple syrup cover peels and cores (just barely) with water, stir in sugar and simmer for 30 minutes or longer. Strain and brush over finished tart. Adds moisture, apple flavor and sweetness. 

Not the neatest, but you'd never know by the finished product
(grab those scraps, slice into ribbons, toss with cinnamon sugar and bake for a treat)

October 15, 2012

Nicoise Tuna Salad Sandwich

Nicoise Tuna Salad Sandwich

Who doesn't love a good sandwich and with a little extra effort, they can be special. Good bread is important. I get mine from our superb local bakery, Turtle Bread. Their baguettes are perfection and their Honey Whole Wheat includes croissant dough scraps. Need I say more? 

This is a grown-up version of the tuna I had as a kid. Back then it was filled with tiny pieces of celery and pickles. This one has artichoke hearts and olives. It reminds me a bit of a nicoise salad or pan bagnat...kind of south-of-France and FULL of flavor. But both have the crunchy, creamy texture that makes tuna salad so satisfying. 

Nicoise Tuna Salad 

Makes enough for 2 sandwiches

1 can olive oil-packed tuna, drained
2 tablespoons canned artichoke hearts, drained well, patted with a towel and chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh basil or parsley chopped
4-5 kalamata or other brine cured black olive, slivered
1/2 teaspoon capers, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic (about half a clove), minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Pinch salt
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
Hard-boiled egg, sliced (optional)
Tomato slices (optional)

Mix everything together and serve. 

October 11, 2012

A Rao'sed Chicken Wings

Lemon Garlic Chicken Wings

There's a restaurant in NYC called Rao's that serves a famous chicken dish with an addictive lemon/garlic/olive oil sauce. My dad and his wife have been making it for years with whole chickens and got us hooked (the title pun is theirs—Rao rhymes with cow—get it?). So it's not much of a leap to make it with chicken wings. I use drummies to save time, but you can certainly use whole wings and split them yourself. Tangy, tender and garlicky, they disappear quickly.

A Rao'sed Chicken Wings

Serves 4

4 pounds chicken drummies or split wings, loose fat flaps removed


3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from approx. 4-5 lemons) .
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup minced garlic, about 8 large cloves
4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes

1. Put split chicken wings or drummies into a deep dish or large plastic bag.

2. Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl or large glass measuring cup.

3. Pour sauce over chicken and toss to distribute. Marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

4. Preheat oven to 400º convection, 425º regular.  Dump wings and marinade into a shallow pan big enough so they fit in one layer. Bake wings for about 50 minutes, turning once or twice, until sauce has nearly evaporated and the wings are nicely browned. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, if desired.

Easy Oven Chicken WIngs

October 9, 2012

Healthy Blender Pancakes

Healthy Blender Pancakes

Healthy Blender Pancakes

Note: I've made some changes to the original recipe. After making these a few more times I found them much better with the addition of an egg and the elimination of one banana. Still healthy - better texture. 

Mmm...pancakes. I woke up with a sore tummy this morning and for some reason, when I feel like that, I crave pancakes. Mild flavor, fluffy, warm and comforting. This version is healthy and since you mix them in the blender, they're easy to make too.  They contain whole wheat flour, oatmeal and are delicious - REALLY.  I've made other whole wheat pancakes that are thick and dry and chewy. These are pancake heaven.

Banana Blender Pancakes

Makes 12 DVD sized pancakes

1 1/4 cups regular (not quick-cooking) oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
pinch salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups milk (dairy, soy or almond)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 ripe banana

Put all dry ingredients in blender and blend to chop and combine. Whisk milk, egg and vanilla in a separate bowl, add to blender and process a few seconds until combined. Slice bananas into batter and process for another few seconds until smooth (you want minimal processing time for a more tender pancake).  Allow to rest for a few minutes.

Heat griddle until medium-hot. Wipe with canola oil dampened paper towel. Pour batter into whatever size you fancy. Flip when bubbles appear on the top and the edges are dry (a few minutes for thorough cooking) and cook for another minute or two. Serve with butter and maple syrup (no need to skimp since the pancakes are so healthy.)

October 7, 2012

Tomato Mozz Fried Chickpea Pasta Salad

This one has a long name because I don't want to lose you, patient reader. I'm trying to entice with other ingredients before I hit you with the waa-waa-waaaah ...oh yeah, it's a pasta salad.

Pasta salad is usually the last thing left on the potluck buffet, am I right? They're often dull, dry (yet mushy) and contain too much pasta. I'm always hunting for the non pasta bits and there are never enough for me.

But...I was asked to bring a pasta salad to an event this weekend, so I'm going for it - trying to make one that doesn't have leftovers.

I'm using 3 kinds of tomatoes (roasted and fresh in the salad, and sun-dried in the vinaigrette) to get 3 kinds of tomato flavor (sweet, bright and intense), mini-mozzarella for gooey, fried chickpeas for creamy and meaty, red onion for zing and crisp, and basil for freshness and sweetness. I also marinated the mozzarella for a day in garlic, basil and olive oil to pep them up. Dusting with parmesan at the end helps the dressing adhere to the pasta (and adds salty flavor).

October 5, 2012

Grandma's Pepperoni Spaghetti Sauce

pepperoni spaghetti sauce

My mother-in-law makes a killer spaghetti sauce. I can eat it by the bowlful. When I need to make something for a crowd (especially when kids are involved), this is my go-to. It's meaty and tangy and familiar and satisfying. It's love on a plate.

Kathi's Sauce

Makes about 4 quarts (freezes well)

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. bulk italian sausage (mild, sweet or hot)
6 oz. sliced pepperoni
1 large white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato juice (46 oz.)
2 cans tomato sauce (30 oz. total)
2 cans tomato paste (12 oz. total)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons black pepper
1½ teaspoons salt

Put a little olive oil in a large pot and saute onions until soft. Remove to bowl. Put ground beef and sausage into pot and brown, breaking up into small pieces (I use a potato masher). Drain excess fat and add onions back in. Put all spices, garlic, pepperoni, tomato sauce and tomato paste into pot and stir until combined. Add half of tomato juice (reserve the remaining juice to thin sauce out, if needed, after simmering). Simmer partially covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour over hot spaghetti, adding freshly grated parmesan cheese and chopped parsley or basil, if you like.

A lot of meat makes a lot of sauce.

Spices - I used 2 tbsp. of fresh basil because I was out of dried. Funny - usually the other way around.

October 3, 2012

Potato Chip Tortilla

potato chip frittata

What red-blooded American wouldn't go for a dish whose lead ingredient is potato chips? Even better, this recipe is from the refined and very french inspired food writer, Dorie Greenspan (from her "around my french table" cookbook). It's basically a frittata you cut into wedges and serve as an appetizer, or with a salad for a light meal. We had ours warm, with a bit of smoked salmon and a dash of sour cream on top.

Potato Chip Tortilla
(adapted slightly from "around my french table" by Dorie Greenspan)

Makes one 9 inch tortilla

3 1/2 ounces potato chips (about 4 cups whole)
4 large eggs
6 scallions (white and light green part) thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil or any combo)
1 minced garlic clove
Pinch smoked paprika or cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat broiler and move rack to 8 inches below coils (this was the second from the top in my oven).

Put the potato chips in a bowl and crush with your hands. Put the eggs, scallions, herbs, garlic and paprika or cayenne into another bowl. Whisk to combine and pour over potato chips. Heat a small oven-proof skillet on the stove over medium heat. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot add the egg/chip mixture and push to the edges of the pan, if necessary. Turn the heat down to low and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until softly set in the middle and brown on the edges. Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on the top. Remove and slide onto a plate. Serve warm or room temperature.

October 1, 2012

Cheesecake with Cherry Topping

cherry cheesecake recipe, cheesecake with cherry topping,

One of the first grown-up desserts I ever made was a cheesecake. Some people think they're hard to make (maybe because you can't buy a mix in a box?), but they're a cinch. You can vary the crusts (Oreo, graham cracker, gingersnap, vanilla wafer), fillings and toppings almost endlessly. Hey, guess that's why someone built a whole restaurant chain around them. They impress, for sure. Creamy sweet filling paired with a slightly crunchy crust. It feels decadent and indulgent. This variety is one of my favorites. It has a dense texture and not-too-sweet plump cherries on top.

Cherry Cheesecake

14 sheets graham crackers
1 stick melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1/16 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350º. Finely grind crackers, salt and sugar in a food processor. Drizzle in melted butter while the processor is running. You should have a wet sand texture. Press firmly into bottom and up sides of a 9 "springform pan ( I like my cheesecake with high sides so I go up to an 1/2 inch from the rim). Try and spread it as evenly as possible (so you don't have a thick crust in the corners and super thin in the middle). Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Cool. Wipe down food processor bowl and blade for filling prep.

3 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend cream cheese and sugar in processor until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend. Add flour, sour cream and vanilla and blend once more. Pour into cooled crust and bake at 350º for 45 minutes. Some brown spots may appear on the top. This doesn't bother me as I prefer a somewhat dryer texture and I cover them up with cherries anyway. Cool on rack for 30 minutes, then cover loosely and refrigerate for 1 hour before adding topping. Carefully run a sharp knife around pan to loosen any stuck crust (don't worry if if some falls off ) and release sides of pan.

5 cups frozen dark sweet cherries
3/4 cup white sugar
1  tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2  tablespoons water

Put gelatin in small bowl, pour water over and let sit to soften. Put cherries (un-thawed), sugar and lemon juice in saucepan and bring to a boil, gently stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes until cherries are warm all the way through. Remove from heat and take out 1/4 cup of cherry juice (save and combine with sparkling water for a tasty beverage). Add gelatin mixture to cherries, stir gently to dissolve and let cool down for 15 minutes or so. Carefully spoon cherries on top of cooled cake, then drizzle juice over the top evenly. Cover and chill for another 2-3 hours or overnight. Take out of refrigerator 20 minutes before serving.

Not the neatest slice, but you get the idea.

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