Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad

Fennel is becoming one of my favorite ingredients. There's something gourmet yet homey about cooking with it. Maybe gourmet because it has a fresh, healthy taste and homey because it reminds me of Italian cooking. Whatever it is, I like to try it out whenever I see a new recipe that calls for it.

I think fennel and orange is a classic combination and it works perfectly with the pork chops. This dish does not have any strong flavors individually, but it has a very sophisticated taste when complete. It kind of reminds me of spa food - even though you probably wouldn't find pork chops at most spas. It is fresh and light yet flavorful. My family loved it.

Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel Salad
Makes 4 servings

3 naval oranges

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt, divided

4 4-ounce boneless porkchops, ½-inch thick, trimmed

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

1 shallot, chopped

3 cups watercress or arugula, tough stems removed

Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and ¼ teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.

Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add watercress (or arugula) and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a platter.

Add the reserved orange juice mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork chops to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Serve the pork chops on the fennel salad, drizzled with the pan sauce.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Broiled Tofu with Spicy Mango Sauce

Well, I found out that I can't stand mustard greens. Actually, I didn't eve use mustard greens when making this, I used broccoli raab, a suggested substitution since I didn't think I would like mustard greens and I assumed broccoli raab would taste more like broccoli. So I would recommend not making this recipe in full unless you actually LIKE greens.

This recipe comes from the "Green Party" feature of the January, 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Like most people, I'm always trying to figure out new ways to get more dark, leafy greens into my diet. But obviously this one didn't work out for me.

Nasty greens aside, the tofu and mango sauce is really good. I like playing with new ways of preparing tofu and I have never broiled it before. The mango sauce was tasty. I ate it for dinner on top of the bed of mustard greens but had the tofu and sauce for lunch the next day with some green beans. The tofu I'd make again. But I don't think I'll be steaming broccoli raab anytime soon.

Broiled Tofu and Steamed Mustard Greens with Spicy Mango Sauce
Serves 8

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced (½ cup)
1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped (½ cup)
¾ cup hot mango chutney, such as Patak's
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped (¾ cup)
2 16-oz. pkgs. extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1 12-oz. bunches mustard greens, thick stems removed

Heat oil in medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cover, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in mango chutney and tomato. Cover, and simmer 5 minutes more. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to broil, and place over rack in highest position. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Halve each tofu block crosswise to make pieces the size of thickness of sandwich bread. Cut each tofu piece into 4 triangles. Brush each tofu triangle on both sides with mango mixture (it's OK if some bell pepper and onion bits stick to tofu); season with salt and pepper, if desired; and place on prepared baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 minutes. Flip triangles, and brush with more mango mixture. Broil 4 to 5 minutes more, or until brown and crispy.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to a boil in large pot. Add mustard greens, cover, and steam 5 to 7 minutes or until greens are crisp-tender, turning occasionally with tongs to make sure greens cook evenly.

Divide mustard green among serving plates. Top each serving with 2 tofu triangles, and drizzle with ¼ cup mango sauce.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Curried Cauliflower Soup

I'm afraid of cauliflower. Not to eat it of course, I love eating it. but to cut it. I just don't get it. It appears so solid and then when I do get the florets broken off they can crumble into a mess. But I think the concept of cauliflower soup is neat so tonight I decided to try and cut up a cauliflower. And you know what, it wasn't so bad. Since it was just going into soup I didn't need to figure out how to make bite sized pieces either.

The soup was pretty flavorful, but mine didn't turn out anywhere near as smooth as the one pictured in the magazine. It had that grittiness that always remains after a puree unless you add more liquid to it. I didn't mind the consistency though, in fact it the soup was quite hearty. And it might have been because I used the entire large cauliflower and did not measure to ensure it was only six cups.

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Serves 6

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 medium tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped (1 cup)

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 clove garlic, sliced (1 tsp.)

1 large head cauliflower, chopped into 1-inch pieces (6 cups)

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp. honey or agave nectar

1 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft and golden. Stir in apple, curry powder, and garlic, and cook 2 minutes more, or until curry powder turns deep yellow.

Add cauliflower and vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes. Cool 20 minutes, then blend in food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in honey and vinegar, and season with salt, if desired.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warm Beet & Spinach Salad

Beets are an ingredient I hardly every use but I have been inspired to make something with beets ever since I had an amazing beet salad at C-House last week. Red and yellow beets were the highlight of this regular item on the menu. I don't see beet salads to often on any menu so I was interested that Marcus Samuelsson chose to feature this as one of only two salads on the lunch menu.

This salad highlights beets as well, but the beets get warmed and then are placed on a bed of fresh spinach. The sweetness of the beets acts in place of a dressing. Kalamata olives and balsamic vinegar add an interesting contract. It only took me about 10 minutes to throw this all together. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Warm Beet & Spinach Salad
Makes 4 servings, about 2 cups each

8 cups baby spinach
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups steamed beet wedges or slices, 1/2-1 inch thick (see Tip)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Place spinach in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 3 minutes. Add beets, vinegar, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the beets are heated through, about 1 minute more. Add the beet mixture to the spinach and toss to combine. Serve warm.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thai Chicken Soup with Chinese Black Rice

I wanted to try something made with "Forbidden Black Rice" because I thought it would be fun to play with a new ingredient. The rice is short and sturdy. You have to rinse it a few times and as you do the water gets somewhat reddish. I did not notice any distinct taste in the rice, but it does seem more filling than regular rice and is not powdery at all. I found a good Chinese black rice by Lotus Foods called "Forbidden Black Rice" at Whole Foods.

I really like most Thai soups so I am somewhat easy to please, but I was not expecting such complex flavors in something I made by myself! Really, this recipe yields restaurant-quality tastes. I took my time making this recipe on a Sunday afternoon (cook chicken, cool chicken, shred chicken, etc.) and while it did take me a while, it is actually quite a simple recipe. The only difficulty is chopping the veggies. The soup is quite healthy and if you want to trim some fat you can use a lowfat coconut milk instead of regular. I hope you try to make this impressive this soup yourself.

Thai Chicken Soup with Chinese Black Rice
Serves 4

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 can (15 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

2 to 3 teaspoons. Thai red or yellow curry paste

1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, including liquid

1½ pound bone-in, skinned chicken thighs or split breasts

4 scallions, thinly sliced (keep white and green parts separate)

¼ cup finely diced red bell pepper

1½ cups cooked Chinese black rice

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or basil

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Thai fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)

Lime wedges, to serve at table

In a 4-quart pot, blend the chicken broth, coconut milk. and curry paste to taste. Set the pot over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, chicken, scallion whites, and bell pepper. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon size.

Remove the chicken. When it is cool enough to handle, shred or chop the meat and discard the bones. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the rice. Add the cilantro, scallion greens, lime juice to taste, and fish sauce, if needed to perk up the flavors.

Before ladling out each portion, stir well to bring the rice up from the bottom. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps

Just like the lettuce wraps from P.F. Changs's! Well, the vegetarian version anyways. I love the idea of using lettuce as a wrapper or taco shell so I was excited when I saw this recipe in the January, 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. And this is a great recipe to introduce people to tofu, either by preparing it or just eating it. All the other flavors are very well and since it is crumbled the consistency is like scrambled eggs and works perfectly was the filling for a wrap.

Definitely take the time to prepare the garnishes because they really make these unique. Especially the flavor of the mint and the crunchiness of the peanuts.

Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps
Makes 16 wraps

2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped (1½ cups)
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp. minced lemongrass
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1 8-oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
4 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
4 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 to 2 tsp. vegetarian chile sauce, such as vegetarian sriracha
16 butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce leaves

1 large carrot, peeled and grated
½ cup chopped green onions
½ chopped fresh mint
½ finely chopped peanuts
Hoisin and chile sauces

To make Filling: Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, and cook 7 to 10 minutes, or until onions are soft and beginning to brown. Add tofu and water chestnuts, breaking tofu into small crumbles; cook 4 minutes, or until heated through. Stir in soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and chile sauce. Transfer to serving bowl.

Place lettuce leaves on platter and set out garnishes in small serving bowls. Let guests wrap tofu mixture in lettuce leaves, and top with their choice of garnishes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pesto

I'm not usually a big pesto fan, but here I think pesto is more like a secret ingredient! Using it as a base for sauteing onions made the kitchen smell wonderful. Also, I admit that I DID buy a real squash for this, but I also found frozen squash at Whole Foods. So when I couldn't figure out how to peel the butternut squash within 90 seconds, I tossed it and started defrosting the frozen stuff. Perfect!

I did not create this recipe but and I printed it out from Notepad so I have NO IDEA where it came from or who to attribute it to. I wish I knew though because it came out so well I want to know some more recipes from this source.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Pesto
Serves 6

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ cup prepared pesto, divided
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen onion
1½ cups Arborio rice
3 cups fresh or frozen cubed butternut squash (1 small squash)

Bring broth and 2 cups water to a boil in large saucepan; turn off heat.

Heat 1 Tbsp. pesto in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and saute 6 minutes. Stir in rice, followed by 1/2 cup hot broth. When rice has absorbed broth, add another 1/2 cup. Continue adding broth in this manner 5 minutes.

Stir in squash, and season with salt and pepper. Resume adding broth, 1/2 cu pat a time until rice has absorbed all liquid. (This should take about 15 minutes.) Remove from heat, and stir in 1 Tbs. pesto. Spoon risotto into 6 bowls and top each with 1 tsp. pesto.