Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable Stir Fry with Noodles, Chicken, and Peanut Sauce

I love trying out new ingredients when I can (especially if I've never heard of it before).  One of my favorite places to shop or find these are at asian or middle eastern markets.  In this recipe the "noodles" I used were sweet potato thread.  As best as Google can tell me it is a Korean noodle made from sweet potato starch.  The cooking process is easy, and the texture is very different from the standard noodle.  They are slightly sweet, quite chewy, and mostly translucent. They threads are also textured with raised bumps like beads which hold the sauce and give a wonderful mouth-feel.  It was a wholly interesting food experience.  Even after using them I got the feeling I wasn't using them quite "right," but I was happy with the results.

If you can't find/don't want to use/are scared of the threads feel free to use any type of cellophane noodle or other stir fry noodle that you want.  To go with them I sauteed up some vegetables, threw in a bit of chicken, and did an in pan peanut sauce. Feel free to use any veggies that you like, snap peas, broccoli, etc. would work great.

The dish and noodles scream for some heat so I was fairly liberal with my cayenne, but go with what works for you.  P.S. The noodles don't photo particularly well...which is why they are mostly covered in the picture.

You will need:
1 pack Sweet Potato Thread
1 medium zucchini, cut into half moons
Half an onion, sliced into half moons
1 anaheim pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 bell pepper, thinly sliced
3/4lbs white button mushrooms, sliced thick or quartered
2 chicken breasts
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup reserved pasta cooking water (take right before you drain the pasta)
Garlic Powder

You will either need two large pots or a large pot (for the pasta) and a large saute pan (for the chicken/veggies).  To start, season the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and a dash of cayenne.  You can cook them as breasts and then cube them, or cube them and then cook them.  Once they are cooked (and chopped) set them aside on a paper towel.  At this point start getting the water in the large pot ready to boil for the sweet potato thread.

Wipe out some of the grease from the bottom of the pan, add a bit new olive oil and start cooking the vegetables.  I put in the zucchini first (about 2 minutes), then the bell pepper (2 more minutes), then the onions (3-4 minutes). I then added a good pinch of all the spices, stirred, and followed it with the mushrooms. Stir until everything is just cooked through and turn off the heat.

As soon as the water has reached a boil, salt heavily, and add the sweet potato thread, cook for 4-6 minutes until the noodles are done.  They will remain chewy but will be soft.  Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain.

Add the pasta, chicken, and veggies into one of the big pots.  Add in the peanut butter and the pasta water and stir until the sauce is formed.  Taste for seasoning.  I needed to add more cayenne, garlic powder, and paprika to get it to the spice level I wanted. Stir again and serve immediately.

I have also found that when I make pasta I really like to make the vegetables the star (which, let's be honest, also makes the dish a lot healthier).  If you can find your veggies fresh or at a farmer's market vendor you like it can really change the quality of the dish.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recipe: Pesto Roasted Tempeh

Pesto is such a great ingredient: fresh, bright, occasionally with a bite, it gives a wonderful flavor to most anything.  This is an interesting way to use it in a new way (and perhaps with a new protein).  As you can see in the picture it turns into a very nice sandwich.  

You will need: 
1 block tempeh
3-4 Tablespoons pesto 

Start the oven preheating to 350. Line a cookie sheet with foil and lightly spray it with cooking spray to avoid any sticking.  Place the tempeh on the cookie sheet and dollop and spread out one Tablespoon of pesto, add the salt and pepper.  Add another tablespoon if it appears you need a bit more to cover.  Turn the tempeh over and repeat.  Cook on one side for 12-15 minutes, turn (add a bit more pesto),and cook another 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown and the pesto appears baked on.  

How I served it: 

Half a roll and hollow out some of the bread.  Shred or slice some smoked mozzarella or other cheese and bake or broil until melted.  Top with tempeh and some sauteed zucchini, onion, or other vegetable if desired.  Arugula/spinach/etc would also be very nice.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Sweet Potato Sticks

Have I mentioned that I love sweet potatoes? If not, I'll do it now: I love sweet potatoes.  All the benefits of a regular potato with Beta Keratin through the roof.  Plus, they just taste good.  This recipe is something like a steak fry.  It is a bit thicker than a traditional one but thinner than a wedge.

 I used two different types of sweet potatoes to try this out.  The first was a white sweet potato (color of regular potato, taste and texture of the sweet) and a regular one.  The white sweet potato cooked a bit faster, so thats something to keep in mind.

 The prep process is very easy, they can be seasoned however you like, and one potato should serve at least two (this is a good bit cheaper than buying them frozen, in my opinion, and they take about the same amount of time to cook).  As for seasoning, you can use anything in your pantry: Dried herbs, spices (from curry powder to cayenne and beyond), a bit of maple syrup, dijon mustard, etc.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

You will need:
1 sweet potato (for every 2 people)
Olive oil
Garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 450.

To start the prep, wash the sweet potato with hot soapy water scrubbing to remove any dirt. Dry it, and then cut it in half length-wise.  Placing one half flesh side down, begin cutting the sweet potato into 1/4th inch or so strips.  Lay each strip flat and then cut it into 2-3 sticks.

Put all the strips into a large bowl and toss with a teaspoon of olive oil (if it appears to need a bit more to coat the sticks, go ahead and add it).  In a little bowl add a quarter to half palmful of salt, and then pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne to taste.  I used approximately equal parts garlic powder and paprika to the salt, half that amount of the pepper, and just a kick of the cayenne. Mix all of these together and then sprinkle over the potatoes in the bowl and mix them with your hand to coat evenly.

Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and use either cooking spray or a bit of olive oil to grease it and prevent it from sticking.  Cook in the 450 degree oven for 20 minutes on side one and 5-10 minutes on side two, or until golden brown.  Keep an eye on the sticks, and turn the oven down to 425 if they appear to be browning too fast.

Serve shortly after removing from oven.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recipe: Vegetable Polenta

I grew up in the South, so I have eaten plenty of grits.  They are a very comforting food, but one that is a bit finicky to cook and, done right, they take quite a bit of time and care.  Polenta is just as comforting but takes a fraction of the time and has a unique flavor.  For the uninitiated, polenta is basically corn meal.  Like grits, there are numerous different cuts and styles of it ranging in expense.  I stick with a box of corn muffin mix.  The texture is nice and smooth, and it comes together very quickly.  For this version,  I added plenty of vegetables and some mild chilies to give it a subtle kick.  You can add whatever you want as well, I even topped it a few nights with a portion of a zucchini boat (zucchini chunked and sauteed would be great in this as well).

You will need:

One 8.5oz box corn muffin mix
4 cups stock (or water, but it will have less flavor)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, washed and chopped
One 4oz can green chiles, drained
One 14oz can diced tomatoes, drained well
Pat of butter
Handful of parmesan or italian cheese mix (optional and to taste)
Thyme for garnish
Garlic Powder

You will need two pots for this recipe, one large sauté pan and one medium sauce pot.  Put the saute pan over medium to medium high heat and saute the onions and green peppers until they just begin to get soft, around 5-8 minutes. While those cook, begin bringing the stock to a boil.  To the vegetables, add salt, pepper, and heavy hit of the garlic powder.  Add the drained chilies and the drained tomatoes.  Stir together and heat. When the stock begins to boil slowly add in the corn muffin mix while stirring to prevent any clumps. Cook together for 3-5 minutes, adding the pat of butter and the handful of cheese, until hot throughout and smooth.   Using a slotted spoon, add in the sauteed vegetables and mix together.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  Garnish with some thyme leaves and a small sprinkle of cheese.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe: Zucchini Boats

I mentioned the large zucchini previously and this recipe got rid of the final two in one fell swoop.  The leftovers were fantastic, and depending on what you are serving with it (a salad or soup perhaps?) you could really get as many as 8 servings from it (half of each boat); and served alone you'd get 4 servings.  The filling for this could be cooked ahead and spooned into the boats before cooking.

You will need:
2 large zucchini, washed throughly
1 pound 93/7 ground beef (or chicken/turkey/etc)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
Handful of frozen corn
1/2 cup to full cup spagetti sauce
Shredded pepper-jack cheese, to taste
Garlic Powder

For the filling:
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika the ground beef and cook until all the pink is just gone (do not overcook).  Remove the meat to a paper towel covered plate to drain and wipe out grease from pan.  Sautee the onion, bell pepper, and frozen corn until the corn thaws (~5 minutes). Add some salt and pepper to the veggies.  Add the ground beef into the vegetables and top with the spaghetti sauce and stir to combine.  Remove from heat.

To make the boats:
Cut off the ends of the zucchini and carefully cut each in half.  With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and middle flesh of the zucchinis until you have a nice trench.  Try and leave a bit of an edge at the end of the zucchini to hold the filling.  Add some salt and pepper to the boats.  Spoon in the filling into the trenches.

To cook:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the boats on an aluminum lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes.  Add the shredded pepper jack to the top of the boats and cook for 5-7 more minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe: Zucchini Lasagna

I bought three giant zucchinis at the farmer's market and I have since come to the realization that I am in need of using them.  This was a good way to use a while large zucchini in one go (for about 4 servings).  I also threw in some thinly sliced sweet potato, onion, and topped with green peppers.  In the picture at the bottom you will notice there was quite a bit of liquid (presumably from the zucchini) in the pan.  I found that the layers themselves held together quite well.  If this amount of liquid bothers you then simply salt the zucchini slices before cooking and set them in the refrigerator in a colander over a larger bowl with something weighing them down.  This will drain them.  I would also recommend pre-roasting (or microwaving) the sweet potato before slicing it in.  Mine did not completely cook, and while not bad, was a bit crunchier than I would have liked.

You will need:
8x8 Pyrex dish
One extra large zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
One sweet potato, par cooked and sliced into thin rounds
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin half moons
1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced
Spagetti sauce (around half a jar needed, I used a mushroom and green pepper one)
1/2 block of mozzarella, shredded
1/2 block of pepper jack, shredded
Garlic Powder

Start by pre-roasting or pre-microwaving your sweet potato.  If you have mandolin you could try that and set it to the thinnest cut setting.  After, set your oven (or preheat to) 350 degrees. When that is all done and you have your bevy of sliced veggies in front of you it is time to start compiling.  Put a few tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the dish and spread them around.  Begin with a layer of zucchini, overlapping them so that you have 4-6 rounds per column and 4-6 columns.  Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  You will repeat that step after every zucchini or potato layer so don't overdo it.
 Layers should be a repetition of:

The top layer should have onion and green pepper with any remaining cheese then sprinkled over it.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a knife slides through the layers without resistance.

Perhaps not the prettiest picture, but it is a recipe I will make again.  And I wanted to let you know what you will see so you will not freak out.  Don't worry, the piece I pulled out was delicious!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Recipe: Sweet Potato Latkes

At the farmers market this past Wednesday, I picked up some white sweet potatoes.  Generally, my first reaction when I come across an ingredient that I'm not familiar with, or one in a different variety I like to buy it and cook with it.  In this case I roasted the potato last night (it was big and wound up taking like 2 hours at 350)  I then mashed it with some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a tad bit of butter.

You will need:
One large sweet potato, cooked and mashed
Dab of butter
Cheese, I used smoked mozzarella
Thyme, for garnish
1/2 English Muffin, toasted

Take a large tablespoon of the mashed sweet potato mixture and form it into a patty.  Heat a notch of butter over medium heat in a pan until hot.  Add the potato patty and cook until just browned on each side (3-5 minutes depending on how high the heat is).  Top the patty with a little cheese and cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil roof so the cheese can melt.  Place it on top of the english muffin and garnish with a few thyme leaves, if desired.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Recipe: Spicy Bean Dip with Corn

This is very similar to the refried beans I made the other day, consider this a variation more than a new recipe.  It adds corn for sweetness, texture, and color and more cayenne for a kick. This is great for a cookout or to serve with chips/pita chips and a few icy beers.

You will need:

1 can black beans, washed and drained
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
8oz frozen corn, thawed and drained
1/2 cup medium heat salsa
Garlic powder

In a large saute pan saute the onion and green pepper over medium heat until just soft.  Add a dash of salt and pepper.  Add the beans and salsa and stir to combine.  Add in the garlic powder and a good pinch of cayenne (between 1/16th and 1/8th teaspoon)  Stir.  When the beans are hot begin smashing them with a fork until the desired texture is reached.  Taste for heat and add salsa/cayenne until it reaches the heat level desired.  When ALL smashing is finished add the corn and stir through.  Taste again for salt and adjust as needed.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Recipe: Tikka Masala Chicken Breast

So this marks my third use of Tikka Masala simmer sauce as an ingredient and I think this is more flavorful than a simple simmer, and probably more accessible than using the game hen.  Basically, you start by ignoring all the directions on the side of the jar.  While that makes a decent tikka masala, it will most likely be a bit watery and less like what you'd find in an Indian restaurant.  This recipe concentrates the flavor and allows it to shine while also giving you a juicy piece of chicken.

You will need:

One jar Tikka Masala simmer sauce
Chicken Breasts (one for each person served)

Liberally salt and pepper each of the chicken breasts and place in a glass casserole dish (or some other vessel for marinating).  Spoon a dollop of the simmer sauce on each of the chicken breasts and using your other hand rub it in.  Flip the breasts and repeat on the other side.  Allow to marinate for at least an hour, or it could go all day.  Pull from the fridge a few minutes before you are going to cook it to get the chill off.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook the chicken for 7-9 minutes a side, depending on the thickness.  After you flip the chicken the first time, add another dollop of the sauce over the top of each of the chicken breasts.