April 20, 2011

Panzanella

Panzanella

It’s cold. It’s rainy. It doesn’t feel like spring at all. Welcome to the Midwest. On weeks like these, I turn up the thermostat to 80, put on shorts, turn up the reggae  and dance around my house while cooking up something summery and pretending it’s sunny and beautiful outside. During one particular occasion, I decided to be ‘Italian’ and make a beautiful Panzanella. This light summery salad is a perfect way to forget a cold rainy day. The thing I love most about it is that it’s different. It’s not your typical ‘lettuce and tomato’ salad (though there’s nothing wrong with typical salads when you’re craving them), and the  fact that it has the toasted bread makes it able to be a meal all in itself. This salad is definitely a keeper in my salad repertoire.

Panzanella

Ingredients

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (I like to use a combination of purple or yellow or orange, to nicely colorize the dish)
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette


1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the ingredients.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Source: Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

April 11, 2011

Chicken Ghiveci

 

Chicken Ghivich

People often ask me what “Moldovian food” is. This is a pretty difficult question to answer since I’ve figured out that it is truly a mishmash of Romanian, Ukranian and Russian food. Growing up, my family would often get together for meals and I always assumed that what we were eating was just “Moldovian food”. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve figured out that so much of what I eat is actually Romanian or  Ukranian. I usually make a list for people that includes “chicken jello” (trust me, you don’t want to know…its actual name is Halodets), “Olivier salad” (the Eastern European version of potato salad), and “pirozhki” (post on these will happen very soon as they are one of my favorite foods in the world).

Ghiveci is usually on this list as well. This ‘chicken ghiveci’ is a Romanian dish that I absolutely love. It can be made vegetarian just by excluding the chicken (and still tastes great). It’s a very good dish for cleaning out your refrigerator as you can throw pretty much any vegetable into it. Warm and very similar to a vegetable/chicken stew, for me, this is truly comfort food.

Chicken Ghiveci

Ingredients
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 mild onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 1/2 lbs chicken breast
6 Tbsp tomato paste
3 potatoes, diced
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 carrots, cut into chunks
1/2 small celeriac, cut into chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 zucchini sliced
salt and black pepper

Directions

Heath the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Add the onion and garlic andcook for 1-2 minutes, until soft.
Add the chopped red peppers
Cut the chicken into 1-2 inch cube, place in the casserole and brown on all sides.
after 15 minutes, add the tomato paste, potatoes, herbs, carrots, celeriac and white wine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook over low heat, covered for another 40-50 min.
Add zucchini slices 5 min before end of cooking. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Serve with dark rye bred.

Source: Adapted from: Russian, German & Polish Food & Cooking

April 4, 2011

Teddy Bear Cupcakes for a Teddy Bear Picnic

 

Teddy Bear Cupcakes

I know I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus, but honestly, it hasn’t been without good reason. We’ve had some major life-changing events in the past few weeks that have kept me pretty busy.

A short summary of the past few weeks for us:

– I ‘matched’ into a surgical residency position. This basically means that I got my first job! I know that I’ll have to work harder than I ever have in my life, but the way I look at it is that I’ll be doing exactly what I want to be doing (surgery)…I’ll just be doing a whole lot of it. So I’m thrilled to start this new stage in my medical education.

-My husband graduated from his MBA program in the top 20 percent of his class. For the past two years, he’s been working full time and doing a weekend MBA program and I am extremely proud of him for graduating and doing so well.

-We started looking for a home. This was so exciting at first, but it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. We lost one home to another offer and are now in a bidding war on another home. Maybe it’s some sort of first-time-home-buyers curse? Anyways, I’m hoping it works out.

So as you see, it’s been busy, but hopefully things will slow down a bit and I can actually update it now since I have lots of great recipes waiting to be posted.

These cupcakes were made together with my good friend and great baking buddy Bree (who I know I’ve mentioned several times in this blog). Her daughter turned one last weekend and since her nickname is Brynne Bear, Bree thought that it was most appropriate to throw her a teddy bear picnic. She actually found this recipe in the Jewish Chronicle Online (a bit random) but these were  so adorable a cinch to make. For the base cupcake, we used my favorite Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake batter…always a winner.The frosting wasn’t overly sweet, which was a perfect contrast to the cupcakes. The only catch with the frosting is that the directions were in grams and while this was not a problem for me (since I recently purchased a kitchen scale to make macarons with), I know that many people do not own a scale. Bree and I were having a bit too much fun baking, chatting and sipping wine that I didn’t think to count how much chocolate and butter 75 grams is, but I will definitely take note of this next time.  And the decorations? Well, I think they speak for themselves. Bree reported back that everyone was very impressed, especially the birthday girl.

Happy Birthday Brynne!

Teddy Bear Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups Hershey’s Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners.
Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes.
Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

For the frosting:

Ingredients:

75g semisweet baking chocolate
75g butter
2 tsp powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Directions:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of warm water, then allow to cool for five minutes.
Beat the butter and sugar together with a pinch of salt, then beat in the cooled chocolate.
The icing will be very soft, so refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through until firmer, but spreadable. Swirl the buttercream over the cakes using a palette knife.

For the decorations:

Ingredients:

Ready to roll white icing
Chocolate buttons
Chocolate M&Ms
Black writing icing

Directions:

Make small balls of white icing and flatten into oval shapes.
Place in the center of each cupcake and attach and M&M for the nose using a little of the writing icing.
Draw on a mouth using a tube of black writing icing and add chocolate buttons for ears and M&Ms for eyes.

Source: Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake , The Jewish Chronicle Online

March 10, 2011

Apple Struesel Muffins

 

Apple Struesel Muffins

This week, I celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8th). I know that to Americans, it’s an unknown holiday, but being born in Europe, my family always celebrates it. My dad actually mentioned to me this year on March 8th, “Can you believe they don’t know what this holiday is here, but 45 minutes away in Canada they’re celebrating it?”

As a part of my Women’s Day ‘celebration’, in addition to emailing a cheesy e-card to all my close girlfriends, I brought in these Apple Struessel Muffins to the hospital and handed them out. They are a perfect mix of sweet and tart (the tart coming from the Granny Smith Apples) and the crumb topping is to die for.

Happy (belated) International Women’s Day!

Apple Struesel Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apples

Topping

1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
For topping, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter
Bake at 400° for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Serve warm.
Yield: 20 muffins.

Source:
Taste of Home Cooking

March 8, 2011

Homemade Hummus

Homemade Hummus

Last weekend, my sister-in-law welcomed her first baby, my fifth niece, Clara. I haven’t gotten to meet her yet, but from the pictures, she looks precious. Knowing that as new parents, my sister-in-law and her husband are likely not getting much sleep and definitely not having much time to cook, I decided to make them a couple easy dishes (homemade hummus and chicken enchiladas that will be posted soon) that they can enjoy. Since I spent the weekend working in the emergency department, I wanted to make them something that wouldn’t take a whole lot of time to put together. Taking only a few minutes to make, but tasting gourmet, this hummus was the perfect solution. The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can really alter it to please your palate by changing the amount of lemon and garlic you add. My only regret was that I didn’t triple the recipe to have enough for myself for the week.

Homemade Hummus

Ingredients

2 cups canned chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup or more water

Directions

In a food processor, add 2 cups of chickpeas, 1/4 cup tahini, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, several pinches of salt, and some fresh ground. Pulse until roughly chopped.
Turn the food processor to on and pour about 1/2 cup of water in a steady stream until the hummus is blended nicely. You may need to add a little more water and olive oil to get the desired consistency
Taste and adjust flavors to your liking.
Serve with pita or fresh vegetables.

Source: A Couple Cooks

March 4, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

 

Buffalo Chicken Wrap

I can safely say that hospital food would fall under both my and my husband’s  list of ‘least favorite foods’. It is often fried and over-salted and just not very appetizing. However, once in a while, they will hit it spot on and make something actually good! Francis had the pleasure of visiting me at the hospital one day last year when they had buffalo chicken wraps and since then, he has been requesting that I make these wraps in our kitchen. I didn’t really have a recipe for them, but tried to throw them together with what I had and they actually turned out better than the originals (Homemade food tasting better than hospital food? Shocking!). Also, I know that ‘the match’ is not for two weeks (the day that decides where I will spend the next seven years of my life for residency), but if it happens to not be at my current hospital, it’ll be nice to know that I will have this dish as a reminder of my med school hospital.

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

Ingredients

For the chicken:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 Tbsp Butter, melted
salt and pepper
Vegetable oil (approximately 2Tbsp)

For the wraps:


3-4 9″ Flour tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Ranch dressing for spreading
1 Roma tomato
Mexican blend shredded cheese
1/2 chopped shallot

Directions:

Place flour seasoned with salt and pepper in a shallow dish.
Pour the buttermilk in another dish.
Dip the chicken pieces in the buttermilk followed by into the flour.
Heat up the vegetable oil in a skillet and cook the chicken pieces for 7-10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the melted butter and buffalo sauce.
When the chicken is cooked through, throw the chicken into the bowl with the buffalo sauce and toss to coat.
Heat up a tortilla and spread ranch dressing on it. Add vegetables and chicken.
Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from: Eat at Allie’s

February 28, 2011

Grilled Balsamic Steak Salad

 

Grilled Balsamic Steak Salad

I’ll be honest…steak is not one of my strong suits. This could possibly have to do with the fact that I don’t eat red meat. I’m always interested in finding different ways to marinate and  prepare  steak but then when it comes to actually grilling it and taste-testing it,  I’m completely useless. So, this dish is pretty much  as close as my husband and I come to cooking ‘together’ in  our kitchen. I marinate the steak and then he stands over me while I  grill it going  “Flip it! Now! Now!” It’s  pretty amusing. And he of course does the taste testing to determine if it’s a good recipe. That was pretty much the case with this recipe. I prepared  the steak and we jointly grilled it. It was actually husband’s idea to throw it over spinach and toss some cheese on (which  surprised me tremendously). Overall, I’d say this was a success.

Grilled Balsamic Steak Salad

Ingredients

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound skirt steak, trimmed and cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup cheddar cheese
2-3 cups Spinach leaves

Directions

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add steak, turning to coat; seal and marinate at room temperature 8hours or overnight, turning once.
Remove steak from bag; discard marinade.
Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 Tbsp butter.
Sprinkle both sides of steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
Add steak to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.
When turning the pan, put the other 1/2 Tbsp of butter on top of the steak.
Remove steak from pan; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Tent with foil; let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.
Place steak over bed of spinach and cheddar cheese.

Source: Adapted from: Cooking Light
*Disclaimer: Steak was grilled to medium by my husband, Francis,  because I’m completely incompetent when it comes to steak grilling.

February 26, 2011

Sauteed Spinach

 

Sauteed Spinach

In my house, it is a battle to get my husband to eat vegetables, which is unfortunate since I love veggies. I am constantly trying to find new ways of cooking them to make them ‘edible’ for him.  Over the years, I have found that adding garlic and butter to vegetables will make him at least give the vegetable dish a shot, so when I stumbled upon this recipe for sauteed spinach, I knew I had to give it a shot. It’s so quick and easy to make and although the picture doesn’t do it justice, it’s really flavorful. My proof that it was a good recipe? Husband finished his whole portion.

 

Sauteed Spinach

Ingredients

1 lb spinach (2 bunches)
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil + more if needed
1 Tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt to taste

Directions

Cut off the thick stems of the spinach and discard. Clean the spinach by filling up your sink with water and soaking the spinach to loosen any sand or dirt. Drain the spinach and then repeat soaking and draining. Put the spinach in a salad spinner to remove any excess moisture.
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 1 minute, until the garlic is just beginning to brown.
Add the spinach to the pan, packing it down a bit if you need to with your hand. Use a couple spatulas to lift the spinach and turn it over in the pan so that you coat more of it with the olive oil and garlic. Do this a couple of times. Cover the pan and cook for 1 minute. Uncover and turn the spinach over again. Cover the pan and cook for an additional minute.
After 2 minutes of covered cooking the spinach should be completely wilted. Remove from heat. Drain any excess moisture from the pan. Add a little more olive oil, sprinkle with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from: Simply Recipes

February 21, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I usually like to end the week with a sweet post, but given that I was post call last Friday, this post never made it to the Internet. Also, since we’re having round two of Midwest blizzard 2011, I thought a dessert post with fruit was in order to remind us that spring really will be here soon despite what the weather says (the groundhog said spring is coming, and he can’t possibly be mistaken right?).

My husband doesn’t like many desserts…in fact, he likes exactly two desserts: ice cream, and strawberry rhubarb pie. Every year, for his birthday, he asks for strawberry rhubarb pie. Easy request right? Not so much given that we live in the very cold and often snowy North where rhubarb doesn’t exist between November and March. A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law began giving me bags of rhubarb from her garden to freeze in the summer to make her son pie for his birthday, hence this strawberry-rhubarb pie post in February.

This is my tried and true recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie. I have been using it for quite a while and it makes a delicious pie that is not too sweet or too tart. Best of all? It gets the husband seal of approval.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients

1 deep-dish 9 inch prepared pie crust (1/2 recipe of this basic pie dough)
4 cups (about 1 1/4 pounds) rhubarb, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch piece
2 cups strawberries, quartered
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt

Crumble Topping

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon of salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

For the crumble topping – in a medium bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Work in the butter with your hands, until large moist clumps form. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in lowest level. In a large bowl, toss rhubarb and strawberries with sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Pour into pie shell; sprinkle with Crumble Topping. Place pie on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Place pie in oven; reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake until topping is browned and crust is lightly browned, about 1 1/2 hours. (If topping or crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil.) Cool completely before serving.

Sources: Adapted from: Very Culinary and Baking Illustrated

February 16, 2011

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

 

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

So, do you have cavities yet from all of the sweet posts?

Now that Valentine’s Day is past, I thought I would start posting “real” food posts again…not that dessert isn’t ‘real’ food but I think I’m in the minority when I claim that dessert should be the bottom of the food pyramid.

I’m not a red meat eater, so whenever I make my husband steak, I usually scavenge around the kitchen trying to find something for myself to eat…and that ‘something’ usually ends up being a Boca burger. Well, one night, I got tired of doing  that so I decided to actually make a gourmet meal and make grilled portobello mushrooms for myself. I had only had portobellos in sandwiches before but let me tell you, these were incredible! They were juicy and flavorful, and I didn’t feel at all like I was missing out by not eating steak that night.

This recipe would probably work well with the whole portobello caps too, but I used what was on sale (pre-sliced stems) and it was so delicious. I highly recommend this recipe for any vegetarian or non-vegetarian willing to be adventurous.

 

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients

4 large portobello mushrooms, washed, stems cut off and caps cut into slices
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
black pepper, to taste

Directions

Melt the butter, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic & pepper together in a small saucepan.
Brush the mushrooms generously with the melted butter and olive oil mixture.
On a grill pan, grill the portobello mushrooms for about 8 minutes. Turn and grill the tops of the portobello mushrooms for 6 to 8 minutes longer. The grilled portobello mushrooms should be tender and nicely browned.

Source: Adapted from: Southern Food About dot com