September 25, 2014

Pumpkin Rice Blend

Are you looking for a simple, yet elegant, side dish to complement any of your upcoming fall meals?  Look no further!  With traces of pumpkin and cinnamon, this sweet and savory side dish is perfect for your Thanksgiving table.  It's never too early to start planning!

What You'll Need:
  • 3 cups turkey stock
  • 1 cup long grain brown rice
  • 1/2 cup tri-color couscous
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper

1.  Bring turkey stock to a simmer.  Add rice, couscous, and thyme.  Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed.  Fluff rice mixture with wooden spoon and remove remaining thyme sprigs.

2.  Stir in pumpkin, cinnamon, salt and pepper.  Spoon rice mixture into a bowl or on a plate.  Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired and serve alongside a wonderful fall dinner!  Sweet, savory, and simple.  Enjoy!

Lemon-Poached Fish with Crab and Corn Succotash

Welcome to September, where Christina slightly loses her mind for about a month or two, until all the opening school events die down and November rolls around.  The first big event at Garrison this year is the Installation of the new Head of School and the Leadership Dinner.  This year, I created the menu for the Leadership Dinner -- and anyone that knows me, knows that's my favorite, favorite thing to do -- create menus!  There are a few passed appetizers that we had last year, so I know how we'll create them, but the salad course and dinner course are different, and I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I wanted them to look and taste like when the time came.  The main course for Leadership Dinner is a Lemon-Thyme Poached Halibut with a Crab and Corn Succotash.  Lucky for all of you, I tested the recipe this weekend, and I was super pleased!  The use of fresh corn off the cob elevates the dish, and paired with lump crab meat and hints of lemon - they all come together as the perfect combination.  Enjoy!

What You'll Need:
  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 small zucchini, small dice
  • 1 small squash, small dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, small dice
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 large lemon, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound fresh halibut, mahi mahi, or fish of your choice
  • 1 pound lump crab meat

1.  Start by prepping the succotash.  First, peel back the husk on corn, but leave intact.  Season corn with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a touch of chili powder.  Pull husks back over corn and place directly on oven rack in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix zucchini, squash, pepper, and scallion in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.  When corn is finished, remove from oven and let cool.  Peel husks back, and over a bowl, scrape ears with a sharp knife to remove corn kernels.  Mix corn kernels with zucchini mixture and set aside. 

2.  In a mixing bowl, whisk parsley, thyme, vegetable stock, white wine, whole lemon slices, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to a skillet and bring to a simmer.  Remove lemon slices after about 7 minutes.  Add butter.  Place fish fillets in skillet and poach (allow to sit in the broth, but spoon broth over the top of the fish occasionally) until fish is slightly opaque.  Transfer to a pyrex dish and oven-bake until completely opaque and flaky.

3.  While the fish is finishing in the oven, drop zucchini mix in the skillet.  Simply saute until you incorporate flavors - you want the vegetables to stay bright with color!  Remove from heat and gently fold in crab meat, as not to break up the lumps.  Spoon succotash into the middle of a plate or shallow bowl.  Lay fish fillet on top, and garnish with micro greens for height and color.  Enjoy!

Update:  Leadership Dinner was a success, everyone said the food was amazing!  I'm so proud of my managers and staff for creating everything for another great dinner! (And proud of myself for not having any meltdowns!)  Here's a look at what the entree looked like that night:

September 14, 2014

Harvest Turkey Salad with Pecans and Apples

I made this delightful recipe about a month ago, but I've been waiting for the most perfect day to post it.  When creating this recipe, I was probably sweating my ass off in the dead of summer, wishing it were November.  Thankfully, the weather has broken and we are enjoying a few short days of 65-degree sunshine.  While sitting at Bucky's football game last night, finding myself shivering a bit under my long-sleeved t-shirt, I knew that today was the day!  I'm happy to share this recipe, simply because I really enjoyed the sweet apples paired with the crunch of the nuts, and the creaminess of the herb dressing that didn't involve any mayonnaise; but mostly because I'm happy to report that I think we have finally reached it.  Welcome, Autumn :-)

What You'll Need:
For the "salad"
1 large Figi apple, diced small
3 ounce pecans, chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Pinch cinnamon
Pinch salt
4 cups cooked turkey breast, chopped or shredded
5 ounces dried cranberries
2 ounces spinach leaves, chopped

For the dressing
10.5 ounces plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon ground sage
1 tablespoon onion powder
Salt and pepper

1.  Start by sauteing your apples and pecans.  In a skillet, add apple, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the apples have slightly softened and the pecans start to toast.  Remove from heat and let cool.  In a large mixing bowl, add turkey, cranberries, spinach leaves, and apple-pecan combination and mix well to incorporate.

2.  Whisk yogurt, buttermilk, sage, onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl until smooth.  Pour over turkey mix and fold together with a spatula until all turkey mix has been coated liberally.  Serve on English muffin halves, whole grain toast, over a bed of greens, or my personal favorite: stuff it in a juicy, ripe tomato!

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!