Friday, November 14, 2008

Cous Cous, Turkey and Kale stuffed Winter Squash

I'll be honest here. I don't know what kind of squash I got in my box on my last delivery, but the bottom line is: It was good. It was like an Autumn Cup or Sweet Dumpling squash? - Not sure. I got the idea of stuffed squash when looking for ads at work. =) I guess it kind of helps working for the Food Network. I came across an Alton Brown video on stuffed squash. I thought to myself - I have an some awesome squash and I have stuff to stuff - Why NOT?!

Cut in half, a nice round squash is nature's bowl - a delicious edible bowl at that. You can fill it with practically anything you want. In this case, as I most often do - I used what I already had on hand. This stuffed squash turned out pretty amazing. The slightly sweet and nutty flavor of the squash paired really well with the turkey and cous cous. Oh - and photo cred: Thanks, to my lovely sister, Isa!

2 small - medium squash
Olive Oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 rib celery, diced
1 cup chopped kale
1/2 lb ground turkey
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 cup of cooked cous cous

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over each half. Place on a baking sheet and bake until the rest of the ingredients are ready to be used (about 20 minutes or so)

In a medium saute pan, sweat the onion, and garlic together with some olive oil - about 3 minutes Add in the celery and cook for another minute or two. Add in ground turkey,
italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook until cooked through but not browned. Add in Kale, and cook until turkey is golden brown. Remove mixture from heat. Add in cous cous and mix until combined. Take out the squash from the oven and fill the squash. Do not pack mixure - let it sit loosely. Cover with foil and cook until squash is tender (about 15-20 minutes)

Optional: I had some home made chimichurri sauce in my refrigerator, so I topped each squash half with some of the sauce and put it in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Apple Fennel Celery Cilantro Salad

I love easy food. I love fresh food. I love light food. Mix up 'easy', 'fresh', 'light', and 'food' and you get Apple Fennel Celery Cilantro salad. I don't remember where I got the idea from because I've made some version of it before, but I looked up an apple fennel salad on and found this glorious mix of crisp goodness.

1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 large apples, julienned
1 medium head fennel, cored and thinly sliced
3 ribs of celery, thinly sliced
1/2 cup of cilantro leaves

In a bowl, combine lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix in apples, fennel, celery and cilantro. Toss until coated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotto w/ Paprika Shrimp & Bacon

What to do with the butternut squash? Zero clue. I had some time last weekend so I cubed, roasted and froze it for later use. I knew that if I didn't roast it then, I'd never have the time NOR the energy to cut up and cook a whole squash after work on a weekday. When cutting up the bright orange cubes, the anticipation of the sweet and gooey goodness got me way too excited! Best idea ever to cook it up early! Still though - I had no idea what to make with it. hit me. Thanks to Aaron, Mr. Bacon Wrapped Shrimp lover, I couldn't think of a better combination of sweet, savory and yumminess. Now I just needed some sort of grain to put it all together - RISOTTO!!! It was the perfect combination of textures and flavors. Textures: Creaminess of the risotto mixed with the crunch of crispy bacon and chewiness of shrimp. Flavors: The slightly sweet butternut squash combined with the deep rich flavors of bacon, parmesan cheese and paprika. Oh my - there really is nothing better.

1 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
10 medium-large shrimp, peeled & deveined, shells reserved and set aside
1/2 Tbs paprika
1 tsp Italian seasoning mix
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
5 slices of thick bacon, cut into little pieces
2 Tbs shallots finely chopped
1 clove garlic
1.5 cups risotto
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive Oil

For the butternut squash:
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the cubed squash with
1 Tbs olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, and toss. Place in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 40-45 minutes until soft and golden brown.

For the risotto:
In a medium saucepan, combine the shrimp shells, italian seasoning and olive oil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the shells are toasted and fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and water and let simmer slowly.
While the broth is simmering, cook the bacon in a large pan until bacon is fully cooked and crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside on paper towels. Keep the bacon fat in the pan under medium low heat, and toss in shallots and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the shallots are translucent, but before garlic burns. Add rice to the pan and stir until lightly toasted. Add white wine and stir until liquid is fully absorbed. Ladle 2 cups of the simmering broth into the pan with the rice. Keep stirring the rice until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the broth one ladle at a time until the rice is cooked to al dente. If more liquid is needed, just add water, little by little. Remove from heat and mix in the roasted butternut squash and parmesan cheese. Fold in the crisp bacon. Salt and pepper to taste.

For the shrimp:
Before starting the risotto, marinade the shrimp w/ 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 Tbs paprika. After the risotto is finished, sear the shrimp on high heat w/ olive oil for 1-2 minutes on each side. Place over the risotto and serve!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fried Rice Cake Noodles

The napa cabbage started this. I need to cook it before another one comes in my box next week! Napa cabbage is one of those staples our family had when I was growing up. My mom always cooked it - in many many many many (I can type that about 15+ more times)...many different ways - all ways in which I probably will never be able to replicate, because my mom pretty much rocks. One of the dishes she seldom made was a stir fry of the cabbage with chicken, shitake mushrooms, and what I called "Chewy Fun", like "Chow fun/mein..." but it was thick, chewy, and shaped like oval discs.

Chewy fun, a.k.a. rice cake noodles, are like flattened udon noodles, but made with sticky rice flour. It can be purchased at most Asian food markets. As a kid, and still now, I get overly excited about eating it because it's probably one of my favorite noodles due to the fun, chewy texture. My mom hasn't made it in a long while, and I have never cooked it myself - so, thank you, napa cabbage, for taking me back to my childhood. Although I know I will never make it how my mom made it, this, at least, is my rendition of what I remember it to be.

1 3/4 lb Rice Cake Noodles (usually 1 bag)
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 white onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, julienned
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
6 dried shitake mushroom, rehydrated and sliced
1/2 napa cabbage
1 Tbs soy sauce
Salt & WHITE pepper

Rinse and soak the noodles in cold water, making sure to separate the ones that are stuck together. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick frying pan saute the onion, garlic and ginger in the oil for 1-2 minutes. Slice chicken into 1/2 inch pieces and season with a pinch of salt and white pepper. Add into pan until cooked through, but yet not browned. Add shitake mushrooms and cook for another minute.

As the chicken and mushrooms are browning, slice the napa cabbage into 1/2 inch pieces. Rinse thoroughly and add to the pan. When the cabbage begins to wilt, drain the rice cake noodles and add to the pan. Continue to mix and flip all the contents in the pan. Add soy sauce and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Cook until the noodles are soft.

Smoked Paprika Pumpkin Seeds

Back in mid October, I bought 2 gorgeously orange pumpkins, with the hopes of carving them for Halloween. While pictures were flying around with all the pumpkins my friends carved the week before, I, sadly, was not able to carve my own this year. As unfortunate as those circumstances were - I had to look on the brighter side --> I had 2 perfect pumpkins with a bunch of seeds inside! Oh the many possibilities!

Smoked paprika has recently become one of my favorite spices and what better way to use it? The deep rich and slightly sweet aromas of smoked paprika mixed with fresh toasted pumpkin seeds. With that in mind, who cares about putting candles in pumpkins to light up portraits of pet dogs, spooky faces and triangle eyes? (Although - I'm not going to lie...the idea of carving pumpkins WHILE snacking on their seeds does sound just a tad bit more fun.) That aside, I got so excited about these seeds, they were still crackling from being pulled out of the oven as I popped them in my mouth and took the pictures.

Seeds from 2 Pumpkins (about 3 cups)
1/2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse the pumpkin seeds from their orange fibers and drain. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and pour out into one single layer on a baking sheet. Place on the top rack and bake for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with a little bit more smoked paprika as it comes out of the oven. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hanging Peppers

The question still is: What to do with all those peppers? I still don't know, but it's likely I'm going to make chili oil. Chili oil means I need dried peppers. It's doable with fresh chilies, but I've heard the flavors aren't as strong - and I want SPICY!!!!

These peppers have been hanging happily for just under one week and they're shriveling up nicely!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dino Kale and Turkey Manicotti

I forget why, but I've had manicotti shells in my cupboard since.....I don't even know when (and you probably don't want to know either). That aside, it IS dried pasta after all, so it's harmless. There are two key motives for this recipe - 1. to finally make use of my manicotti shells, and 2. to use up some of the fresh crisp dino kale. Manicotti is often made with a simple ricotta and spinach mixture, but I like meat with my pasta, and I my box gave me kale - not spinach. Since kale doesn't wilt as much as spinach does, the key to making the little green specs is to finely chop up the big leafy greens before cooking it. Otherwise, you'll pull out a big piece of kale when cutting into it. Don't let the ugly photo fool you - it turned out amazing.

12 Manicotti Shells (Usually comes in one box)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 lb ground turkey
1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped
1.5 tsp italian seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
1.5 - 2 cups of finely chopped kale
1.5 cups of ricotta cheese
1 Jar (26 oz) of marinara sauce
1/3 cup of shredded mozzarella

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. Boil a big pot of water w/ salt - cook the manicotti shells until just under al dente. There should still be bit of a bite to it, but still pliable. Set the pasta aside and let cool.

While the pasta is cooking, chop the onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes in a pan with the olive oil. Add in turkey, salt, pepper and italian seasoning and cook until turkey is lightly golden brown. Throw in the chopped kale and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Put the turkey/kale mixture in a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Mix in ricotta cheese.

Pour a thin layer of marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9x13 in. pan (about 1/3 of the jar). Once the pasta is cool enough to handle, stuff them with the turkey/kale/ricotta mixture, and line them up in the pan. Once the pan is full, pour the rest of the marinara sauce over the top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, covered w/ foil, for 30 minutes or until sauce is boiling. Remove foil and return to the oven until the cheese is golden brown. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tuna Potato Cakes

There are those moments when I get incredibly inspired, but am too lazy/tired to actually take the time to go to the store and get the ingredients for it. The idea for these tuna potato cakes came out of an email newsletter I got from Saveur Magazine. It was a recipe for Hawaiian Taro cakes - using purple taro root and fresh ahi tuna - they looked DELICIOUS. In my pantry, I had, the beautiful red potatoes from my produce box and canned tuna. Same difference....right? Hmmmm...suuuurrrre, why not? I served it over a mix of lettuce, arugula, and cilantro w/ citrus vinaigrette.

1/2 lb of potatoes (I used 2 of my red ones)
1 can of tuna (in water)
1 rib of celery, diced
1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs milk
1 egg
1/4 cup of dried bread crumbs
Salt & Pepper to taste

Peel and boil the potatoes until soft and tender, drain. While the potatoes are cooking, dice the celery and onion, and mix in with the tuna, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Keep the tuna a bit chunky. Mash the potatoes in a separate bowl with the butter and milk. Mix in the egg once it's slightly cooled. Season the potatoes and fold in tuna mixture and bread crumbs. Form the mixture into little cakes about 2 inches in diameter and 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick. Pan fry in olive oil - about 2-3 minutes on each side or until it's golden brown. Makes about 7-9 cakes.

For the Citrus Vinaigrette:
Juice of 1/2 Orange, 1/2 Lemon, 1/2 Lime
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil (or depending on the amount of juice your fruits give - 1 part juice to 2 parts oil)
1 Tbs Honey
1/2 Tbs Mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Mix/Shake all ingredients together vigorously and drizzle over greens.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

It's like Christmas every 2 weeks.

I got my first produce box yesterday! All the items are so incredibly fresh - it's ridiculous how excited I am over a silly box of fruits and veggies. So here's what I got this week:

White Button Mushrooms (6 oz)
1 Butternut Squash (3lbs)
5 Red Jonagold Apples
4 Starkrimson Pears (There are only 3 in the picture - but I couldn't help myself - I ate one before I got home)
Red Potatoes (1.5 lbs) - the site said "Fingerling Potatoes"...but they don't look very fingerlingy to me. They're red and round.
1 Napa Cabbage
1 Bunch Lacinato/Dino Kale
3 Stalks Baby Bok Choy (1lb)
1 Bunch Arugula
1 Green Leaf Lettuce Head

Cayenne Peppers (.5 lb)

The pears - absolutely delicious, perfectly ripe. I could make poached pears - but I think I'll have to save that for when I have company. (Anyone coming over for dinner anytime soon?) The apples - crisp and sweet. Now, with apples, fuji's are my absolute favorite, but I think these come pretty darn close. They aren't sandy in texture nor are they too bland/sweet/tart. What else would you want in an apple?

The Cayenne Peppers (yes, I have to start a whole new paragraph for these babies)...the cayenne peppers are HOT - and there are a LOT of them. So many - I have no clue what to do with them. Since I have my box delivered to my office, my boss, John, decided to be the brave one. He broke one in half and took a tiny bite out of it - I think it almost burned his tongue off. I put my tongue to the other half of the pepper and I now think John is practically superman 'cuz he survived a whole bite, chew and swallowing of it. So - what to do with these babies? Chili Herbed Oil, perhaps? Merry Christmas, my friends, here's a bottle of chili oil, from my heart to yours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

....and so it begins

First of all: I'm SO excited to get my first box of yummy local organic produce from Farm Fresh To You. the premise from which this blog will grow from and hopefully, become my long term love affair.

In the midst of a quarter-life crisis, I've decided to do something for myself. This blog is it. I love food. Everything about it takes over every single one of my senses. It's gorgeous to look at in all forms (except for maybe on the way out), and the smells, tastes, and textures vary infinitely. There's always something new to try, and if I like it, I can have it over and over and over again. Food, for me, is survival, it's an indulgence and a passion. What better way to go through a quarter-life crisis than to dive into something I'm familiar with, but yet, know SO incredibly little about in the grander scheme of things. There's much to discover, so much to succeed at, and as awesome of a cook as I think I much to fail at and learn from.

Local, organic produce that I may or may not purchase on a regular basis- delivered right to my door! It will be like my own personal Iron Chef competition - against myself - "What's the secret ingredient this week?"....BEETS? SQUASH?'s whatever's in season, my dear. And each time that same ingredient comes to my door, I will make something different with it - and perhaps even more delicious and amazing than the dish from the week prior.