Tuesday, July 8, 2008

15 minute Lamb Chops...Take That Rachel Ray!

My dad has become a master of meats and one of my all time favorites is his Pesto Lamb Chops. I was amazed when I figured out how he actually made them that they are super easy. I've never been able to cook meats too well since I'm so impatient, but these lamb chops really take no more than 15 minutes to make...now on to the recipe!

Pesto Lamp Chops:

For the Lamp Chops:
  • 4 lamp chops
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup store bought pesto or freshly made with the recipe below
Preheat broiler. Run the lamp chops through water and pat dry with a paper towel. Line broiler pan with foil and place lamp chops on top.

Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on both sides of the chop. Rub in to marinate the meat and let stand for about 3 minutes. Spread a heaping tablespoon of pesto on the top side of each chop.
Broil for 4 minutes or until slightly browned.

Take the chops out and flip. Spread another heaping tablespoon of pesto on the flipped side of each chop. Put back in the broiler for 3 minutes or until slightly browned. Take the chops out and let stand for 2 minutes with a foil covering them so the juices settle.

For the Pesto:
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2 cups fresh packed basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pick the basil leaves off the stem and wash under cold water. Chop the pine nuts, garlic, and lemon juice in food processor. Add basil leaves. Gradually add olive oil. Finally blend in the Parmesan cheese.

You can keep pesto in the fridge for about a week. In the freezer it will last about 3 months, but you should not add the Parmesan cheese if you plan on freezing. Add the cheese only after thawing since cheese doesn't freeze well.

And there you have it. No one will ever know it only took you 15 minutes to make.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Queen of Tarts

Since I've been home, I've made 4 fruit tarts already. I guess you could say I've gone a little tart crazy, but I can't help myself with the abundance of summer fruits and berries.

I came across this recipe while watching my absolute favorite Food Network show, The Barefoot Contessa. Her lemon curd is delicious and really brings out the flavor of the lemons, which I had picked that afternoon from my grandmother's garden. I added a pint of fresh raspberries and substituted the crust recipe from the Balsamic Custard Tart (just because that one used a little less butter). The result was perfection--my family couldn't stop eating!

Lemon Curd Tart (adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

For the tart shell:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

For the lemon curd:
4 lemons, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the tart shell:

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the lemon curd:Remove the zest of the lemons with a vegetable peeler or zester, being careful to avoid the white pith. Squeeze the lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process for 2 to 3 minutes, until the zest is very finely minced. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon zest. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lemon curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat.

Fill the tart shell with warm lemon curd and allow to set at room temperature.

**Arrange a pint of fresh raspberries. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

I love tarts!


Is it Chocolate? No...it's Balsamic!

When my friend Terra brought this tart to our Cornell Gourmet Club potluck, I thought to myself, "Wow! Chocolate and berries! My favorite combination!" I eagerly took a bite and immediately realized the custard was not chocolate. It was a familiar flavor, slightly tart yet sweet, but I could not for the life of me figure out what it was.

When she told me it was balsamic vinegar, I thought "Of course!" and immediately asked for the recipe. The slightly sour custard enhanced the sweetness of the berries, making it a light and
lovely summer dessert. Everyone at the potluck loved it, including me! Here is the recipe:

Balsamic Custard Tart with Fresh Fruit

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon whipping cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (we generally just use regular baslsamic;
it just looks prettier if you use white)
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

(I've also made this with other assortments of fruit (kiwis,
pears, what-have-you), and it seems to work well regardless)

2 large strawberries, hulled, sliced
2 1/2-pint containers blueberries
1 1/2-pint container raspberries
1 T orange marmalade (optional)

For crust:

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns, until coarse meal forms. Add egg yolk and cream. Using on/off turns, blend until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Press dough evenly into 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Pierce dough all over with fork. Chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake crust until golden, pressing with back of fork if crust bubbles, about 22 minutes. Cool.

For filling:
Stir cream and cornstarch in medium bowl until cornstarch dissolves. Add eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla; whisk to blend.

Boil vinegar in heavy medium saucepan until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water, sugar, and butter. Stir until butter melts; return to boil. Gradually whisk vinegar mixture into egg mixture; return to pan. Whisk until custard thickens and boils, about 1 minute. Strain
into bowl; cool. Spread custard in prepared crust. Cover and chill tart at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

For topping:
Arrange berries as desired. Cover loosely and chill until ready to serve. (Can be made up to 6 hours ahead.)

I added a glaze to keep the berries fresh. Melt 1 T of orange or apricot marmalade in a saucepan. Brush onto the berries.

Fool your friends and family with this fool-proof, festive tart!


A California Twist on a Classic

In honor of my upcoming trip to San Francisco, I decided to try and recreate a salmon BLTA I had several years ago at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Even though it’s been ages since I’ve eaten that sandwich, it still stands out in my mind as one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had and a great example of Calfornia cuisine at its best.

For my rendition of the salmon BLTA, I used my friend Eli’s salmon recipe and made extra of his secret sauce (which is not so secret anymore, since I’m sharing it on the blog!). The sweet and spicy tang of the sauce went perfectly with the smokiness of the bacon, the delicate flavor of the salmon, and the freshness of the tomato and avocado. I also toasted the ciabatta bread to add a little extra crunch. This sandwich is perfect for lunch on a hot summer afternoon, with a tall glass of iced tea.

Salmon BLTA

(Serves 1)

Approx. ¼ lb. salmon fillet (can use more or less—depending on how big you want your sandwich to be!)

1 ciabatta (can be any type of crusty bread, i.e. baguette, sourdough, etc.)

2-3 slices center-cut bacon

Handful of romaine and/or red lettuce, washed and rinsed

1 tomato, sliced

1 avocado, sliced

Eli’s secret sauce: 1 T mayo, ¾ T BBQ sauce, 1 t brown sugar

For Eli’s salmon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. For Eli’s secret sauce, mix together the 1 T mayo, ¾ T BBQ sauce, and 1 brown sugar. (This makes enough for the salmon. For extra to spread on the salmon, I would double the recipe.)
  3. Spoon the sauce over the salmon. Roast in the oven for 7-10 min until center is light pink. Set aside and cool.

To assemble the sandwich:

  1. Cook the bacon in frying pan. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a separate pan, pour 1 t of extra virgin olive oil (and little bit of bacon drippings, optional). When oil is heated, put half of the ciabatta face down onto the pan for approx. 2 min. until lightly browned and crispy. Flip and toast the other side. Do the same for the other half of the bread.
  3. Spread Eli’s sauce onto both sides of the bread. (If you don’t have the sauce, you can substitute plain mayo).
  4. Place salmon, lettuce, sliced tomato, and avocado onto the ciabatta.
Enjoy this tasty California update of a classic--I know I did!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Virginia is for steak lovers

I am visiting my boyfriend, who lives in Northern Virginia, for the week. Making dinner for him is always quite the challenge, as our tastes are very different: he is a staunch carnivore who loves his steaks and hamburgers while I prefer steamed tofu and veggies. I finally caved in, and agreed to make him a steak dinner, but with a few healthy twists. Instead of drenching the steak in A-1, I decided to pair it with a refreshing chimichurri sauce (adapted from Emeril Lagasse), a sauce typically used in Argentina. I also made a black bean, corn, and tomato salad with a lemon olive oil dressing--a perfect summer salad--and brown rice as side dishes. This way, both my boyfriend and I were supremely satisfied and fantastically full after our meal. It can be a great menu for Memorial Day as well. Here are the recipes:

Steak with Chimichurri Sauce (adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup sherry wine vinegar (I substituted red wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves (substituted 3/4 T dry oregano)
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (1 3/4 to 2-pound) skirt steak

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic and shallots. Pulse until well blended but do not puree. Add 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the crushed red pepper. Remove 1 cup of the chimichurri sauce from the processor and transfer to a non-reactive bowl, cover with plastic wrap and reserve at room temperature for up to 6 hours. (If cooking steak another day, refrigerate sauce and return to room temperature before serving.)

Season the steak with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt on each side, as well as 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper per side and place in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add the remaining chimichurri sauce from the processor. Seal bag and refrigerate the steak for at least 2 and up to 4 hours.

Preheat a grill to medium heat.

Once the steak has finished marinating, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Brush the excess chimichurri sauce off the steak and set the steak over the hot grill. Cook for 6 minutes on the first side. Rotate the steak 45 degrees, and cook another 6 minutes. Turn the steak over and continue to cook until the steak is done, about 6 to 8 minutes for medium-rare. Once cooked, lay the steak on a clean cutting board, and allow it to rest for 5 to 7 minutes before slicing across the grain into 2-inch wide strips. Serve with crusty bread and the reserved chimichurri sauce.

**Since I did not have a grill, I seared the steak in a pan with olive oil for 30-45 seconds on each side. Then, I cooked it in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-15 minutes (depending on how you like your steak cooked, I did mine medium well). Make sure, if you have more than one steak, not to put them too close together on the pan. Otherwise the steaks will "sweat" rather than broil.

Even without a grill, the steak came out moist, tender, and full of flavor!

Black Bean, Corn, and Tomato Salad (adapted from epicurious.com)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
a 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup cooked fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1 scallion, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
a pinch cayenne (I added much more than a pinch--about 1 t)
4 large Boston lettuce leaves, rinsed and spun dry (optional)

In a bowl whisk together lemon juice, oil, and salt to taste. Stir in remaining ingredients, except lettuce leaves, with salt and black pepper to taste and let salad stand, stirring once or twice, 15 minutes for flavors to develop. Line 2 plates with lettuce and divide salad between them.

Van a comer! (Let's eat!)


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who needs the Statler?!

With the school year already over and my departure from Cornell fast approaching, I can only think of one thing---an entire summer without the Statler sweet potato fries! I must admit that I am a sucker when it comes to anything with sweet potatoes--sweet potato pie, candied yams, and most of all, sweet potato fries. Every day I walk into the Statler (one of Cornell's many campus eateries), I try to resist but succumb every time to their crispy yet tender, sweet yet salty goodness.

Since I am going to be without the Statler, and Cornell, for the next few months, I decided to try making sweet potato fries on my own. Instead of frying them in a huge vat of oil (like the Statler does, which made me slightly ill when I found out), I wanted to take a healthier route. I roasted mine in olive oil with a little bit of butter. The results were fantastic! I ate almost the entire batch by myself. These fries make a wonderful, healthy snack and, if you are a sweet potato addict like me, will surely satisfy your next craving!

Sweet Potato Fries
(Makes 2-3 servings)

1 1.5 lb sweet potato
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
1 t salt (plus extra to taste)
1 t pepper (plus extra to taste)
Dash of brown sugar (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise, and then slice into french fries or wedges.
3. Melt 1T of butter. Mix with the 1 T olive oil.
4. Drizzle the butter and olive oil over the fries. Toss together with your hands and make sure the fries are all well coated. Season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle some brown sugar for some added sweetness.
5. Arrange the fries on a baking sheet, and make sure they are not too close together or overlapping one another (this will cause the fries to steam and become mushy). Bake for 18-22 minutes, flipping them over after about 10 minutes.
6. Take them out of the oven and enjoy!