Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Grilled Salmon Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese

Life is so good right now.  Busy and good.  Work, grad school, applying for jobs for next year, graduation, working out, and so much else--it's all wonderful.  Truly.  I have absolutely nothing in the world to complain about.

So when I had a free night last week, I jumped on the chance to get in the kitchen and try out this recipe from my sweet friend Annie...with one twist.  I wanted to use blackberries instead of blueberries.  

I've been on a blackberry kick recently, which is very new for me.  Honestly, if you'd asked me about blackberries last year I would've told you they were one of my least favorites.  But this year, I'm all about them...and it's not even May.  I'm going to call it now, readers--lots and lots of blackberry recipes this summer.  Get ready.  Sweet, savory, and liquid, I'm going to use all. the. blackberries.

Good thing they work so well with bourbon.  Hey, a girl's got to have something to do with all her new found free time...

Rich salmon pairs perfectly with sweet, juicy blackberries and creamy, tangy goat cheese in this healthy salad that's sure to become a spring and summer favorite. 

Grilled Salmon Salad with Blackberry Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats

1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing grill and baguette
1 1/2 TBSP honey
12 oz. blackberries (2 6-oz. clamshells)
3 TBSP white wine vinegar
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 salmon fillets (5-6 oz. each)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into 1/2-thick slabs
1 demi baguette, thinly sliced on the bias
6-8 c. mixed salad greens
3 oz. honeyed goat cheese

1.  Preheat outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to medium-high.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine 1/4 c. olive oil, honey, and 6 oz. blackberries.  Heat over medium, stirring occasionally, until the blackberries begin to release their juices, 5-6 minutes.  Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender or small bowl of a food processor, puree until smooth.  Run through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds.  Reserve 3 TBSP of the mixture for the salmon, then whisk white wine vinegar into remaining blackberry mixture.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2.  Brush the skinless side of the salmon fillets with reserved blackberry sauce.  Brush both sides of the onion slabs with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  

3.  When the grill or grill pan is heated, brush with additional olive oil.  Put the salmon pieces down with the skin side on the bottom.  Place the onion slabs on the grill.  Cook salmon until skin is crisp and darkened, then carefully flip to put glaze side down.  Flip onions.  Cook until the glazed side of the salmon is blackened and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish registers 135 F.  Remove and set aside to rest.

4.  While the salmon is cooking, prepare the remaining items for the grill.  Lightly brush both sides of the baguette slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Once the salmon and onion have been removed from the grill, place the baguette slices on the grill in one layer.  Grill, flipping once, until both sides are browned.  Remove and coarsely chopped for croutons.  Chop the onions, as well.

5.  Divide the greens among four plates.  Top each with equal amounts of the remaining blackberries, grilled onions, goat cheese, salmon, and baguette croutons.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, April 24, 2015

Asparagus Lasagna

So it's April now.  Late April, to be exact.  And I haven't posted in over a month.  I'm sorry about that guys.  Can I offer you this completely outstanding meal to make up for it?

I made it for a dear friend when I had her over for dinner.  We first met when a mutual friend recommended her as my real estate agent.  From the moment we met, we clicked.  We talked and talked (and talked).  It was great.  I knew she would find me the right place to start my life over again in Texas.  I just didn't realize how hard she would work to make it perfect.  

Throughout the home search, we talked and talked some more (see a theme?) and truly became friends.  She even still liked me after I had her take me to my house three times before I made an offer.  That's dedication...and patience.

So when I had her over to show her all I've done with my little piece of Texas, I wanted to be sure dinner was just as perfect as the adorable little house she found for me.  It was.  The lasagna was full of spring flavor and was rich without being heavy--just perfect for the early spring evening I made it.  While there were several steps to prepare the ingredients and assemble the dish, they were all pretty easy.  The leftovers were great, too.  I sent my sweet friend home with quite a lot of them because, even though I halved the recipe for us, it made plenty.  Neither of us were that sad about it.

Lasagna with a springtime twist makes seasonal favorite asparagus the star of the show.

Asparagus Lasagna
slightly adapted from Giada deLaurentiis, Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites

9 lasagna sheets, fresh or dried
1 TBSP plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
2 (8.5-oz.) jars sun-dried tomatoes, drained, oil reserved
1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
1 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 lb. pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-in. pieces
1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add 1 tsp. olive oil and pasta.  Cook according to package directions until tender but firm to the bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, combine sun-dried tomatoes and basil in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture is combined.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  Set aside.

3.  In a large skillet, brown the pancetta until crisp, then remove using a slotted spoon.  Add remaining olive oil, onion, and garlic to skillet and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add asparagus and cook until tender, 4-5 minutes more.  Transfer mixture to a very large mixing bowl.  Add the ricotta, salt, and black pepper, and stir to combine.

4.  To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/2 sun-dried tomato mixture over the bottom of a deep lasagna pan.  Place a layer of lasagna sheets on top and spread the noodles with half of the asparagus mixture.  Sprinkle with a third of the mozzarella and 1/4 c. of the remaining Parmesan.  Repeat twice more to complete three layers.  Bake until the lasagna is heated through, 25-30 minutes.  If desired, turn oven to broil for last few minutes to brown the cheese.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I hope you're not sick of soup yet.  I never could be.  But if you are, this one might just liven up your routine.  It takes a true American classic--chicken and wild rice soup--and kicks it up a bit with the addition of rich coconut milk, curry powder, and a few fragrant and pungent spices.

To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what I'd think of this.  Frankly, I was pretty surprised I wanted to try a curry recipe so badly.  It's not usually something I lean toward.  But something about the promise of coconut milk, rice, and spices that would keep me warm on the coldest, snowiest of days sounded so, so right.  And it was.  

I was warm, and full, and happy.  Who doesn't love that?

Warming curry, cumin, and ginger pair with coconut milk to put a decidedly Indian spin on all-American chicken and wild rice soup.

Curried Chicken and Wild Rice Soup 
adapted from Gimme Some Oven

1 c. uncooked wild rice
1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 c.)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 c.)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 c. chicken stock
3 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 tsp. yellow Madras curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper (black will also work, but white pepper has a different heat)
1 (14-oz.) can coconut milk
chopped cilantro, for garnish

1.  Cook the wild rice according to package directions.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 6-7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.  When the garlic is fragrant, add the chicken stock, chicken, curry powder, cumin, ginger, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine then add in coconut milk.  Bring the soup to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering, partially covered, until the rice is done.

3.  When the rice is cooked, remove the bay leaf from the soup then stir in rice to combine.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Ladle into individual bowls and top with cilantro, as desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meatless Monday--West African Peanut Soup

Yes, you read that correctly.  Peanut soup.  As in a new way to get your peanut butter fix.  At least if you're a total peanut butter lover like I am.

Recipes like this remind me of one of the major upsides to being single.  It's easy to make, nobody else had to get on board with it, and I didn't have to share one single spoonful of the leftovers.  I think those reasons qualify as legit "silver lining" type things, don't you?

With just a little chopping, a bit of whisking, and some patience while the soup cooks, I whipped up one of the most different soups I've ever had.  The texture was thick and creamy, as you'd expect from a recipe calling for that much peanut butter.  The onion and kale added a good amount of texture.  Some recipes for peanut soup call for sweet potatoes to be added in while the broth is simmering.  I think they would be a stellar addition, but I opted for brown rice this time, just as Kate suggested.

If you're looking for a new addition to your winter Meatless Monday routine, please give this one a try.  I think you'll be surprised at just how much you love the combination of peanut butter, onions, kale, garlic, and tomatoes.

A unique and creamy soup that combines peanut butter, kale, garlic, and tomatoes in the most unexpected and pleasant way.

West African Peanut Stew
from Cookie + Kate

6 c. low sodium vegetable broth
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 TBSP peeled and minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 bunch collard greens (or kale), ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-in. strips
3/4 c. unsalted smooth peanut butter
½ cup tomato paste
1/4 c. roughly-chopped peanuts, for garnish
Sriracha, or other desired hot sauce, as desired
brown rice, for serving (optional)

1.  In a medium heavy-bottomed soup pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

2.  In a medium-sized, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl. Whisk the mixture together until smooth.

3.  Pour the peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well. Stir in the collard greens and season the soup with hot sauce to taste. Simmer 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often. Serve over cooked brown rice if you'd like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts and more hot sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, March 2, 2015

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes

It's about time for a dessert around here, don't you think?  How about an individually-sized lemon cake that's equal parts sweet, tart, creamy, and spongy?  Still not convinced?  Then scroll on down and check out those layers.  They form on their own, you know.

It's true.  With just a handful of ingredients and a little patience while you whip egg whites (and wait for the cakes to bake and cool), you can have your very own little cake.  Only, as it bakes, this cake forms a middle layer of light, airy pudding and top that looks and tastes like smooth lemon curd.  It's every bit as perfect as it sounds.  

My sister, one of those people who will always choose lemon over chocolate, would love these cakes.  She is a huge fan of my lemon bars already.  But today's her birthday and birthdays mean cake, right?  I think so.  So Taylor, I hope you have a fabulous birthday.  I can't wait to make these for you when I see you soon.  You'll get your very own personal lemon cake, but no squishing the pudding through your teeth.  It might be your birthday but I'm still the bossy big sister.  Always have been, always will be.

Bring a little bit of sweet-tart sunshine to your plate with these individual lemon pudding cakes.  With three layers of light, fluffy cake, airy pudding, and bright, rich lemon curd, they're sure to bring a smile to your face.  

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes
from Annie's Eats

softened butter, for greasing ramekins
3/4 c. plus 1 TBSP sugar, divided, plus more for coating ramekins
1/4 c. plus 1 TBSP all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
zest of 2 Meyer lemons
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
4 large eggs, separated

1.  Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Lightly grease inside of six (8-oz.) ramekins with the softened butter then coat with sugar.  Prepare a deep baking dish or roasting pan by placing a clean kitchen towel in the bottom.  Set prepared ramekins on top of the towel in the baking dish.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, 3/4 c. sugar, and salt.  Add in lemon zest.  With clean hands, rub the zest into the flour mixture until evenly distributed and fragrant.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, lemon juice, and egg yolks.  Set aside.

4.  In a separate medium bowl, combine the egg white and remaining tablespoon sugar.  Whisk or beat with a hand mixer until soft peaks form, taking care not to overbeat.

5.  Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and whisk to combine, incorporating well.  Add 1/3 of the whipped egg whites to the bowl and gently fold in with a rubber spatula.  Repeat with remaining egg whites in two more additions.

6.  Once the egg whites are evenly incorporated into the batter, divide it into the prepared ramekins.  Add hot water to the baking dish until it reached halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  

7.  Tent the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake 20-30 more minutes, until the cakes rise up and the tops are lightly browned.

8.  Carefully transfer the ramekins to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  When ready to serve, gently run a paring knife around the edges of each cake and invert onto serving plates.  Top with candied lemon slices, whipped cream, or other desired garnishes.

Yield: 6 individual cakes