August 23, 2014

Spring Rolls with Honey-Ginger Pork and Asian Noodles

Anyone that can make homemade Asian food taste just like that salty, probably MSG-laden stuff in the white takeout containers that comes to my door on a lazy Friday night, bravo.  Of course, even though scarfing down homemade Shrimp Lo Mein probably feels much better on the body because you know exactly what you're putting in it, there's just something different about takeout food that feels oh-so-guilty and pleasurable.  Most likely because someone else made it.  With that being said, these spring rolls won't taste like takeout.  Why lie?  However, they do taste like sweet and salty packages of pork perfection.  (Props to anyone who can tell me what grammatical element that sentence contains.)  The pork works with teriyaki and honey, and the noodle salad mellows out the sweetness, making this spring roll a fun appetizer!

What You'll Need:

For the pork
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder
For the noodles
  • 1/2 pound rice noodles
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/4 pound green beans, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon teriyaki sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10-12 rice paper sheets

1.  In a skillet, start to brown the pork over medium-high heat.  Whisk honey, ginger, teriyaki, red pepper flakes, and seasonings to taste.  Pour over pork and continue to let it cook until it has browned completely.  When pork has browned and sauce has been absorbed, remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Let cool.

2.  Cook rice noodles according to package directions, or until desired texture.  Drain and cool.  Meanwhile, in the same skillet you cooked your meat, drain most of the excess oil, leaving about two tablespoons.  Toss in green onions, carrots, and green beans for about five minutes, allowing them to soak up some flavor.  Remove from heat, toss in pasta and let cool.

3.  Whisk rice wine vinegar, olive oil, teriyaki sauce, toasted sesame seeds and salt and pepper.  Pour over noodles and toss to coat.  It should be a light coat.

4.  Prep work station with a large bowl of hot water, still warm enough to handle, and a damp, clean kitchen towel.  Soak each rice paper sheet in hot water as you use them (not all at once), until they become pliable and soft.  Remove from water and lay on towel.  Leaving about one inch at the bottom of the sheet, lay down about about 1 1/2 tablespoons of pork, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of noodles.  If you find that is too much to work with, scale it back.  Fold in sides of rice paper sheet, then fold from the bottom and roll.  Repeat.  Cover and refrigerate for about an half hour until they are cool and slightly firm to the touch.  Serve with a sweet and tangy teriyaki sauce on the side for dipping!  Enjoy!

August 14, 2014

White Vegetable Lasagna

Recently, my dad went in the hospital to get heart surgery, and my dear mom has been taking care of him ever since.  And my Aunt Lucy has, essentially, been taking care of both of them!  Both my mother and aunt go up to the hospital day-in and day-out, often spending 10-12 hours there at a time.  Since I have been on my "stay-cation" this week, I decided it would be nice to make them some dinners for the week.  That way, when they get home from the hospital at night, they can simple take out the container, pop it in the oven, and have a nice hot meal with no work for them.  One of the best meals to reheat in the oven is lasagna, so I created this recipe that I hope they both enjoy!  Read on for the details... 

The Essentials:
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3 medium carrots
  • Salt
  • 16-ounce box Lasagna sheets
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

The Bechamel:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded or cubed
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

The Ricotta:
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh basil leaves + 2 fresh thyme sprigs,  finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

1.  Prep the essentials:  Slice each tomato in 1/4-inch slices. Slice zucchini in half lengthwise, and then slice half-moons.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots in long, thin strips.  Place all vegetables in a colander set over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Set aside.  This will expel excess water from vegetables.  Meanwhile, soak lasagna sheets in hot water.

2.  Making the bechamel:  Whisk butter and flour in a saucepan until flour dissolves.  Stir in room temperature milk, and then a few ounces at a time, whisk in mozzarella cheese until melted.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

3.  Making the ricotta mixture:  With a hand mixer, mix ricotta cheese, goat cheese, eggs, salt and pepper until incorporated and smooth.  Take spinach leaves and fresh herbs and fold in mixture.

4.  Assemble the lasagna:  In a large pyrex dish, start by laying down four lasagna sheets side-by-side to cover the bottom of the dish.  Cover with half the bechamel, and then layer on zucchini and carrots.  Start again with four lasagna sheets on top vegetables.  Cover those sheets with half the ricotta mixture, then layer with tomato slices.  Top that with lasagna sheets, then the rest of the bechamel, then the rest of the zucchini and carrots.  Repeat with lasagna sheets, the rest of the ricotta mixture, the rest of the tomato slices, then finish the top with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil and transfer to a 375-degree oven for 35 minutes.

5.  Switch oven to broil and remove foil.  Cook for an additional five minutes, until the top is bubbly and just slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes to let layers set.  Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired, and enjoy!

August 13, 2014

Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese Butter

A late post to the LOVELY dinner we had for Father's Day this year.  After realizing this post was about 2 months overdue, I thought it best to write it on #NationalFiletMignonDay.  Who knew there was such a thing, anyway?  I wonder when #NationalCheeseDay is, because I could most definitely get on board with that!  This recipe showcases this tangy, salty, and creamy butter that would go great on steak (like here!), corn on the cob, baked potatoes and more.  Paired with these straight-off-the-grill, eight ounce filet Mignon, the butter melts perfectly, seeping into the grain of the steak, making each bite melt in your mouth.  You have to try this on your next date night!

What You'll Need:
  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
  • 3/4 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • (6) 8 ounce steaks (filet Mignon preferably, but Rib Eye is also a favorite!)

1.  With a hand mixer, spatula, or good old fashioned set of hands, mix the first four ingredients together until well incorporated.  Salt and pepper as desired and transfer mix to a long piece of plastic wrap.  Form a log with the butter, and roll until covered.  Place in the refrigerator to let chill and take shape.

2.  Cook steaks on the grill (preferably) for about 9-12 minutes on each side for a 1 1/2-inch thick steak.  Be sure to turn only once, and don't press down on the filet, simply let it sit.  For a thinner cut of steak, 5-8 minutes on each side should suffice, depending on how you like it cooked.  This should give you a good medium rare.  Transfer the steaks to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for 5-7 minutes to let rest.  This will lock juices and flavor in to the meat.

3.  Remove the butter from the fridge and slice into 1/4-inch thick pieces.  Top steaks with coins of butter and cover until butter starts to soften and melt just slightly.  Needless to say, transfer that baby to your plate and enjoy!!

August 11, 2014

Oven-Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

What incredible flavor this recipe has!  The sweetness of the tomatoes really pops when the tomatoes, well... POP!  It's easy, and perfect for parties.  The best thing about bruschetta is the versatility of the whole dish.  You could serve this as an appetizer, you could add sliced flank steak and serve it as a meal, or you could skip the bread and simply serve the topping as a salad.  Also, as represented here, it can be served both hot and cold!  I've always been partial to the traditional cold tomato bruschetta, but after making this... cold's got competition. 

What You'll Need:
  • 6 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes (the more colorful, the better!)
  • 1 small-medium red onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, divided
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 long baguettes
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1.  In a large mixing bowl, toss whole cherry tomatoes, sliced onion, 1 tablespoon of garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper until coated.  Transfer to a lined baking sheet and place in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes, until the tomatoes burst and are soft.  (The better the balsamic, the sweeter the dish.  The way the balsamic caramelizes while cooking is great!)

2.  Slice baguettes lengthwise.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, the rest of the garlic, some red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

3.  Load up the baguette halves with the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with chopped basil.  Slice on an angle for a nice presentation and enjoy!  (The only thing I wish about this recipe was that I had arugula to stack on top!)

July 31, 2014

Ahi Tuna Salad with Thai Chili Dressing

At Garrison Forest, we recently got a new Head of School, Dr. Kim Roberts!  Generally, getting a new Head tends to make people nervous; the feeling that you always need to be on your toes, ready-to-impress.  Well, the feeling was no different this morning when Kim was meeting with a member of the Board of Trustees and had requested her first plated lunch from the SAGE kitchen.  There is no one in the kitchen on staff this week, and my boss is on vacation, so I got to take the reins and choose something I'd like to give to her.  I went in the Asian direction (her cat's name is Kimchi!), because it's something different than our traditional plated lunch, and because Kim has just moved here from Palo Alto, California, where there are Asian restaurants for days.  I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite salads at Pappas in Glen Burnie, complete with fresh Ahi tuna, field greens, and a spicy cilantro chili dressing.  My dressing is different, and I added some things here and there, but some ingredients remain.  Going off of my own likes and tastes, I came up with this!  Here's a tip: try the dressing on ANYTHING - it's delicious!

For the tuna:
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • (2) 6-ounce yellowfin tuna steaks
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
For the salad:
  • 1/2 pound rice noodles
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3/4 cup shelled edamame
  • 5 oz. bag of spring mix lettuce
For the dressing:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 tablespoons Sweet Thai Chili Sauce (any variety)
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Salt and pepper
Garnish, optional:
  • 1 avocado, sliced or cubed
  • 1 tablespoon "tuxedo" (black and white mixed) sesame seeds, toasted

1.  For the tuna: Whisk the juice of two limes, honey, and ginger in a mixing bowl and marinate the tuna for about 15 minutes.  Heat sesame oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  When hot, sear tuna steaks, about 3 minutes on each side, depending how rare you want it.  Chill.

2.  For the salad: Bring about six cups of water to a boil and add rice noodles.  Cook until your desired texture, drain, rinse, and set aside.  Toast walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, until golden brown, or in a skillet until you can smell them toasting.  Set aside to cool.  Slice peppers, carrot, and onion very thin, in long strips and put in large mixing bowl.  Add edamame, walnuts, and spring mix to the mixing bowl.  When cooled, add rice noodles.

3.  In a bowl, whisk all ingredients for the dressing.  Pour dressing over all ingredients in mixing bowl.  Toss with your hands to coat.  Separate noodle salad equally into two large, shallow bowls.

4.  Slice tuna into 3/4-inch pieces, careful not to break it up.  Place the tuna around the salad, or on top.  Garnish with chopped avocado and toasted black and white sesame seeds.  Enjoy!