Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree

This was one of those recipes that you want to jump in the kitchen right after you saw someone making on TV. As I was watching the lady make the pasta my mind could not stop saying "you have to make this one, you have to make this one...!"
So, I did, of course! And what a pleasant surprise!
I really enjoy eggplant dishes and this pasta did not disappoint, actually I think I just got a new pasta sauce for the top of my list of favorites!
The eggplant sauce was sooooo creamy, so delicious and flavorful, I was truly impressed and amazed by the silkiness of this dish.
Since I don't have a food processor, I used my blender to process the eggplant so my sauce was really more on the puree side, and I have to say that I loved the texture it came out. It was almost like a babaganoush pasta sauce if you will, a rich eggplant puree infused with the flavor of garlic, olive oil and a very subtle "tomatoyness" (hey, I think I created a new word!).
Very delicious and I already want to make it again!
The only thing I did different was to omit the red pepper flakes (as both me and Matheus just cannot stomach the heat) and to use basil in place of the mint, and I think that was a good move to be quite true. Oh, and I sprinkled the cheese on top, instead of mixing it in with the sauce.
Great, super easy dish, which I am sure will be even more delicious and flavorfull when I make it during the summer, at the peak of both basil and tomato crops!

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree
(Recipe from Giada De Laurentiis)

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, whole
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 pound rigatoni pasta
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves (I used Basil)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with partchment paper (or aluminum foil).
In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and red
pepper flakes. Spread vegetables in an even layer on baking sheet and roast in the oven until vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, place the pine nuts in a small baking dish. Place in the oven on the rack below the vegetables and roast until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and reserve. (Keep and eye on these, they burn REALY fast!)
While vegetables are roasting cook the pasta until tender. Drain, put pasta in a large bowl and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor. Add the mint and extra-virgin olive oil. Puree the vegetables.
Transfer the pureed vegetables to the bowl with the pasta and add the Parmesan. Stir to combine, adding the pasta cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time until the pasta is saucy. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the top and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sweet Crepes!

When it comes to end a meal with a sweet touch my choices pretty much revolve around creamy desserts, but with the cold weather we are having right now I knew that ice cream or panna cotta would not make it to the table - I wanted something warm!
Matheus and my husband both love savory crepes and a while ago Matheus realized we could make them sweet and has been asking for us to try it sometime.
With him asking and my desire for something warm (and chocolaty!) we decided to make some sweet crepes for dessert, and the choice could not have been better!
I made crepes with my regular recipe, which I use for savory ones, but added a tablespoon of sugar to the batter (recipe bellow). Then I chopped some bananas, added a touch of cinnamon and sugar to them and sauteed them in a skillet over the stove top just to warm them up and sort of let them caramelize on their own sweetness... oh my, the filling was absolutely delicious on its own, really, I didn't even needed the crepes after I tasted it!
I then put some filling in each crepe, rolled (tucking in the sides as in a burrito) and drizzle the top with a simple chocolate syrup made with warm cream (and a little milk) and dark chocolate - just melt the two together, but don't put too much milk so it doesn't turn too soupy.
It was simply heaven! Warm, sweet, plus the bananas were creamy inside, and paired with the chocolate.... ohhh it was good!
So easy, and the crepe recipe made a lot, so I saved them on a zipbag in the freezer and now we can have crepes for dessert when the cravings strike!

Here you can see the yummy bananas inside!!

Basic Crepe Recipe

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Put all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

My Notes: This recipe can be used to make both sweet and savory crepes. When I made the sweet ones I reduced the salt to 1/4 teaspoon and added 1 tablespoon sugar to the batter, and it just added a subtle sweetness to the crepe.
Also, when making the sweet crepes you might want to add a touch more milk just so that the batter is a little more loose, and that will help in making thiner crepes, which are desirable for a dessert course.
For the savory ones though, I keep the batter as is, since my boys here like the crepes to be a little on the thicker side!
Also, for savory crepes you can flavor the batter by mixing finely chopped herbs into the batter (parsley, basil, rosemary, etc - but mix it with a spoon, unless you don't mind a greenish crepe batter!), even a little parmesan cheese is a good addition to flavor the basic crepes.
That's it! This is a pretty basic recipe, so you can use your imagination and create your own delicious concoction, being it savory or sweet!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie!!

Or should I say Turkey Pot Pie.... yeah, I know, it was not chicken!
As most of my friends we also had some leftovers from our Christmas Turkey Breast, so I had to figure something to do with all the meat. Thankfully our turkey was very moist and flavorful (really, I was impressed, it was the best I have made!) so it was a pleasure to eat the leftovers over and over!!
In order to use up some of the turkey and not have to eat it right away I made one of our favorite and one of the Husband most requested recipes: Chicken Esfihas, which I have already posted and talked about here, didn't change a thing other than using turkey instead of chicken!
I make it once a month and freeze it so we can have for lunches and snacks when the hunger attacks.
With what was left I decided to make a Potpie, which came out soooo delicious that it wished I had more turkey to make it again on the following week. We loved it so much that we polished of most of it in one meal.
I actually did not follow a recipe, but used the veggies and turkey we had leftover calling for us in the fridge. But I based my Turkey Potpie on the recipe that appeared in the cover of November's Everyday Food magazine.
You basically make a white sauce (bechamel), a more "loose" one than you would if making sauce for pasta, and then add the cooked chicken and veggies of choice, creating this way a very flavorful filling which can be covered with a variety of toppings: pastry crust, biscuits, phyllo dough.
I chose to use phyllo dough for mine, as I wanted to experiment and have some fun with it! However, as fun as it is to work with phyllo, you do have to be extremely careful as the dough sheets are very delicate and tear easily. Plus, always keep a damp towel covering the pieces you are not working with so they don't dry out, because let me tell you, they are so thin that they really do start to get dry in a matter of seconds.
For our potpie we used the roasted turkey breast, carrots, peas, corn, broccoli and mushrooms. Also, I made my "white sauce" with half milk and half chicken broth, just because I wanted to add some more flavor other than just having a milky sauce. It worked pretty well and I liked the results much better than other potpies I have tried (which were not many I don't find comercial/restaurant varieties to be "that" good). And I also brushed the top of the phyllo topping with olive oil and sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on it - this top part was so yummy!
I will leave here the link for the Chicken Potpie from Everyday Food, as well as for another recipe I had marked to try from Cooking Light (my favorite cooking magazine!). They are both really similar and use phyllo as a topping. But feel free to browse on the websites and see the potpie options they have to offer, and they do have quite a few!
Either using a recipe or creating your own, this is a dish worth trying, especially now during the winter months, as I found this to be a delicious and very satisfying comforting meal, just perfect for when we were all together at home during the school break.
This homemade chicken potpie won my stomach and warmed my heart!

For the Everyday Food LighterChicken Potpie: click here.

But check this Chicken Potpie from Cooking Light too!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Chicken Stuffed with Garlic and Goat Cheese

As promised, here I am with new recipes to share! And what a better way to start this year's posts than with a recipe involving goat cheese??? I love, LOVE this cheese, it is so creamy and tangy, one of my very favorite cheeses of all!
I had high hopes when I first spotted this recipe, and it certainly did not disappoint. Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Garlic and Herbed Goat Cheese is a very flavorful and delightful dish. The chicken was moist and perfectly cooked, and although the goat cheese mixture did escape a little from the insides I still did not complain because it created a wonderful sauce on the bottom of the pan, in which the chicken was sitting in, so it was completely infused with the flavors, inside out.
The recipe comes from Cooking Light and is very easy to prepare. Chicken is stuffed with yummy, creammy deliciousness, then browned on the stove top and finished in the oven.
Perfection, so flavorful, so juicy, so good! No need to say it will show up in our tables many times to come!

My notes and a tip before you read on: I had plain goat cheese at home (prefer buying plain, this way I can flavor it however I want!!), so I chopped some fresh basil, parsley, and rosemary and mixed into the cheese. No need to fuss here, use the herbs you have at home and I assure you it will turn out great! (I wouldn't however use dried herbs for this, I believe fresh would be best, but if that's all you have on hand, then why not try, right?!) Also, I made half recipe.
My tip for this recipe: go ahead and roast two garlic heads and save the other one for later use. I like to do this because I love roasted garlic, as it adds lots of flavor to savory dishes and having it ready is very convenient. After roasting it, let cool; then squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin, place the cloves laying them flat on a small zipbag and freeze it. This way when you need/want some roasted garlic they will be ready for you. Plus, laying them flat into one layer in the bag helps a lot, as you can just "break" apart (from the sort of "garlic slab" you made) the amount of garlic you need at the time without needing to defrost the whole thing!

Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Garlic and Herbed Goat Cheese
(Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2007)

1 whole head garlic
1/3 cup goat cheese with herbs (3 ounces), left at room temperature to soften
6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut a small "lid" from the bottom of the garlic (to facilitate squeezing later) head, wrap it in aluminum foil and roast for about 1 hour. Let cool, squeeze garlic cloves and discard skins.
In a small bowl combine garlic pulp and goat cheese (plain cheese and herbs if you make it like me!), set aside.
Make a horizontal cut into the thickest part of the chicken breast to form a sort of "pocket" and stuff 3 to 4 teaspoons of cheese into each breast. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large skillet, add chicken and cook 3 minutes, until browned. Turn chicken over and put skillet in the oven, bake at 350F for about 20 minutes (start checking around 16 minutes so it doesn't overcook), or until a thermometer register 165F. Let it rest 5 minutes, serve and be happy!!
Yield: 6 servings
Happy New Recipes!
And a wonderful 2008 to all my wonderful friends!!!
I have been so lazy with updating my blog lately that I do need to apologize big here. I have been cooking, and a lot, new recipes, old ones, some that we loved and have made two or three times in the past few months, and even though the kitchen has been busy something got into me and I just kept delaying my posts around here.
But now, it is a New Year, and I want to start it well! And of course, my blog is something I love, the friends I made here I heartily treasure, and I don't want to let this space fade in the blogsphere, so here I am, back with a lot of posts to share, I promise!!
First let me say that I haven't posted any Thanksgiving recipes just because we did not have any... I know, as weird as it may sound, last November we used our Turkey-day-off to take Matheus to Disney, and that was the VERY BEST THING we could have done! It was so worth it, we had soooo much fun, he loved every second of our 4-day trip and it was by far our favorite time of 2007 (together with our trip to Brasil last Jan/Feb!).
So, that's why no turkey recipes appeared here. However, we filled the gap on Christmas Day, which by the way was very calm and peaceful, just the three of us in our home, sweet home!! :-)
We had Turkey (a whole turkey breast which I seasoned the day before with lots of herbs, butter, salt and pepper, and then roasted on the 25th) with Vegetable Gravy on the side (which I will post here because it was amazingly good!), Honey Glazed Carrots, Broccolini sauteed with garlic, and a "Christmas Rice" (as Matheus named it!) with dried fruits and nuts- which was a hit, we all loved at home. Matheus liked it so much and he could not believe I came up with it without using a recipe! hohoho!!!
And here is a peek of the rice so you can take a look, it did came out pretty, huh?!

Anyways, Christmas was simple, easy, but very nice. Matheus had fun opening presents and spending the day playing in his pajamas, so yes, we did have a happy time!
For New Years Eve and Day we also kept low key, on the 31st Matheus was in bed by 10:00 pm and the husband and I watched a movie while we waited to toast 2008 with a little champagne (and i do mean little). Nothing fancy, but special for us nonetheless.

So now you all know how that I am still here and will be posting a lot more recipes this year!
And I do wish all the best to all of my dear friends, and Thank You, Thank You to for the time that we spent together, here in my kitchen during these past few years of kitchenspace!