Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Burrata [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: easy if shopping's good where you are
Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4

Think back to last February, beginning of the month, when Chicago experienced the huge blizzard that stranded a thousand cars on Lake Shore Drive. The weekend that followed all that mess was when we went to visit Nick. We were two of about six tourists who thought it fun to slog around the Windy City. Only single-wide paths had been chiseled through the massive snow piles at the streetcorners. Even Lake Shore Drive itself was still sketchy. Lane would be going along and then...peter away. (The snow plow driver's shift must've ended.)

Since we had the restaurants all to ourselves, we wound up in a rather nice one in the theater district. One of the featured appetizers was burrata. Sounded interesting.

Well. It was such a pleasant combination of salty, sweet, bitter and creamy that I made it for a dinner party back in New Albany the next weekend. Mary and Jack were there, and Mary went crazy over it. To the point that she even tried to make the cheese herself. That took a great while, and, I think she'd admit, was way too much of a time-suck.

While burrata is apparently not that easy to find--our Italian market, Carfagna, said they only get it for holidays since it has a short shelf life and is flown over wrapped in lemon leaves(!)--Whole Foods has it. And since Matt was here last night and had never tasted burrata, perfect. He loved it. So much, he even shot it on his iPhone for this post.


1 container burrata: burrata is fresh mozzarella filled with shreds of mozzarella soaked in cream (Whole Foods has Bel Gioioso brand, in 8 oz. containers, 2 burratas per container)

A handful of pitted dates

Prosciutto, crisped in a pan for a bit

Arugula for garnish

Balsamic reduction to drizzle over cheese (and over the plate if you want to create fancy designs): take 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduce by half in small saucepan, add 1 teaspoon brown sugar, swirl for a sec, reduce another minute, and cool slightly before serving

Crostini (French bread, toasted slightly)

Arrange the elements on a serving tray, and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" just because it's lush and beautiful, not because of the vampire thing

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sun-dried Tomato Ravioli with Ricotta and Spinach Filling [Zack]

We love having dinner parties that have (optional) participation in preparing the meal.  One of our go-to plays is to pre-make pasta dough and have our guest help us roll out the pasta.  Everyone enjoys helping and laughing in the kitchen and it’s always gratifying for guests to eat what they have helped make.   For this recipe, we had some friends over from Switzerland and invited a few more couples.  They all loved cutting out ravioli shapes with the cutter (and even got inspired for some weird ones).

On the pasta dough:  Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about food dyes and chemical additives.  I wanted to figure out a way to color ravioli naturally – I tried adding some tomato paste to the pasta dough.  It really dialed up the color and added a fun subtle flavor.  The tomato flavor is not overpowering, so you can stuff raviolis these with anything that you can think of:  ground beef, lobster, goat cheese, etc.


Follow the pasta dough process (more details provided here).  Place your flour and salt in the food processor and pulse twice to distribute the salt.  Add the eggs, a 4 or so hydrated sun-dried tomatoes, and the tomato paste.  

Pulse until the dough looks like large breadcrumbs.  Add a dash of water at a time until right before it begins to ball up.  Take the dough out and knead it on a floured surface until it’s smooth – about 5 minutes.  

Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge to let the dough hydrate.  You can make the dough up to 2 days before you have your party.

In the meantime, dice enough onions and garlic for both your ravioli filling and for your sauce.  Wash your spinach so you don’t have sandy pasta.  In a medium pan, sweat your onions for 5 minutes, and then add the garlic.  After 2 minutes, add in your spinach all at once and cook down.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt for seasoning.  Set the pan aside and let it cool off. 

In a large bowl, dump in your ricotta cheese.   Add in your cooled spinach and mix everything up.  Taste for seasoning and add lots of fresh-cracked black pepper.

Start rolling out your pasta dough (or have your guests do this) and get as many long sheets of dough that your pasta will make.  I like rolling mine out to the 3rd to last thinnest setting.  Add a dollop (about 1 heaping T) of the filling on the bottom half of the dough (horizontally).  Separate them about 1 inch apart so you can fold over the top half.  

Dip your finger in a bit of water and trace around the outside of the dollops of filling.  You don’t want to soak the dough, just dampen it.  This will help your dough stick to itself.  Fold over the top half horizontally over your filling and lightly press out the air in between them.  

Use your ravioli cutter, a round cup, or a knife to separate the ravioli by cutting between them.  If you aren’t using a ravioli cutter, use the tines of a fork to press down the edges to insure a good seal.

Once your production line has finished, start boiling some salted water and preparing the sauce.  We are going to “simulate” a cream sauce.  It’s not totally sin-free because we need to add a bit of cream for flavor, but our chicken stock will take us most of the way. 

Sweat some onions first and then add garlic in a pan with a bit of olive oil.  Add in 1 cup of chicken stock and ½ cup of heavy cream.  Cook down until it’s a nice thick consistency. 

The ravioli need only about 4 minutes in the boiling water since the pasta is fresh.  Gently strain the ravioli into a colander and then place in a bowl with your sauce.  Enjoy the meal!


2 cups AP flour4 T of tomato paste
3 eggs
4 or so sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp salt
a touch of water

Filling for Ravioli
1 medium onion diced
3 large cloves garlic diced
4 cups washed and uncooked spinach
2 cups ricotta

1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream (don’t get the fat free stuff – it’s filled with chemicals)
½ medium onion diced
1 clove garlic

Music to roll out the ravioli:  Daan - Housewife

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cream Puffs [June]

Easy to make dessert that looks like you've been baking all day. This receipe is from my very first cookbook - Betty Crocker.
1 Cup Water
1/2 Butter or margarine
1 Cup Flour
4 Eggs
Vanilla Pudding
Confectioners' sugar
Makes about 24 mini-puffs or 12 large.
Heat oven to 400. Heat water and butter to rolling boil. Stir in flour. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball.
Remove from heat. Beat in eggs all at one time, continue to beat until smooth. (this might take a little while but just keep beating!)
Drop dough onto ungreased baking sheet. For large puffs, use 1/4 cupful. I made mini-puffs and used a heaping teaspoon.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool and then cut tops off. Pull out any filaments of soft dough. Fill puffs with vanilla pudding (or whipped cream if you prefer). I actually used Pudding Snack Packs. Replace tops & dust with confectioners sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Best-ever Brussel Sprouts [June]

These don't taste at all like the bitter brussel sprouts that alot of us have had that made us never want to eat them again! As we all know, everything is better with bacon and that might just be the key ingredient that makes the difference.
Brussel sprouts (but you knew that) - I used approximately 12
2 Slices Bacon (preferably thick - and more if you like bacon)
1/4 Cup Onion
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
Cut stems from brussel sprouts, cut in half and peel away any loose leaves.
Dice bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy. Add onion to pan and cook under translucent. Add sprouts. If it looks a little dry, add a little white wine or vermouth. Saute until sprouts are lightly browned & tender. Add brown sugar and let cook until sprouts begin to caramalize.
We served this as a side with Grilled Curry-Fig Turkey (that Tom posted a couple days ago) and grilled sweet potatoes.

Tilapia en Papillote [June]

This is an easy-to-make recipe that you can make in advance and just have to pop in the oven. No “cooking skills” required!

IngredientsSpinach Leaves
1 Tilapia Fillet per person (or your choice of fish)
Salt & Pepper
Fresh Dill
Fresh Parsley
Lemon Slices
Asparagas spears
**Parchment paper

Tear off a piece of parchment paper largest enough to fold over your piece of fish. (each one is done individually). You can either leave it square or cut and make it round. (round was easier to fold)

Fold your paper in half. Place about 8-10 spinach leaves on one side on the paper to create a bed. Top with fish fillet, add salt & pepper, dill, parsley, 2 slices of lemon, capers, a dab of butter and top with asparagus spears.

Fold paper over and begin crimping paper and work all the way around to seal.

Put on baking sheet and cook at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Serve in the parchment paper. Just tear open to eat.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Curried Fig Grilled Turkey Breast (Tom)

We made this dish for our weekend guests Bubba Bob and Debbie. It is easy, inexpensive and quick.

Here is what you will need for 4 people:

- 1 1/2 to 2 lbs. boneless turkey breasts ( may be 2 pieces)

The glaze
- 2 ounces rum
- 1/2 cup of fig preserves
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- salt and pepper

Spray the grill with cooking spray then pre-heat the grill to a medium flame.
Mix the glaze ingredients in a bowl. Place the breast or breasts on the grill. Cook each side for 5 minutes. Then start brushing the glaze on the breast. Repeat brushing the glaze while cooking until done. When the breast reaches 180 to 190 degrees remove and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

We served this dish with sliced grilled sweet potatoes and June's sauteed brussel sprouts. The sprouts are fantastic. June will post that recipe soon.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Healthy Brunch Quesadilla [Tom]

This is a quick and easy Breakfast or Brunch.

What you will need:

1/4 cup diced onion
1/4 cup diced bell pepper
1/4 cup diced ham
1/4 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 whole wheat tortillas
Light sour cream
Cooking spray
A pinch of salt and pepper

Spray 2 frying pans with cooking spray. Heat one pan for the eggs.
Beat the 2 eggs and milk together
Saute the onion and pepper for 4 minutes until tender.
Stir in the ham and cook for 2 more minutes.
Pour the egg mixture in the pan to make an omelet. Heat the 2nd pan to medium low heat. Place one of the tortillas in the 2nd pan. When cooked to your desired taste, place omelet on the tortilla. Add the cheese and then place the second tortilla on top of the omelet and cheese. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes and then carefully turn over the tortillas and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve with salsa and sour cream.


Fall Fresh-Market Mushroom Salad [Zack]

Antwerp has an open air market every Saturday in the center of the city.  It’s immensely popular with the locals - they do some food shopping and have fresh oysters with champagne before noon :).  Can’t hate on that.  I love wandering around, looking at each of the food booths and imagining fun things to cook/eat.  In the late fall, mushroom purveyors are prevalent and I decided to make a chicken and mushroom salad as a fresh lunch.

I always like asking opinions of experts – and in this case the woman in the booth was extremely helpful.  I explained that I wanted to make a fast and fresh salad, and she let me sample a bunch of different types of mushrooms and made great suggestions.  I ended up using chanterelles, pink oyster mushrooms, and some unknown mushroom that she brought from below the table.  Feel free to use any combination of mushrooms that you have available to you, just make sure they are fresh and delicious!


Start by making your mise en place.  

Grab a cup and put some very hot water into it.  Submerge your sun-dried tomatoes and let them stand for about 20 minutes to re-hydrate.

Wash the mushrooms to clear off the dirt.  Some people suggest using a mushroom brush, but if you are sautéing them in a frying pan, I don’t see the need to take the extra time.  Slice them until they are nicely-sized bites.  Mince the shallots and slice the sun-dried tomatoes (when they have hydrated enough).  Start 2 pans on your stove on medium heat.

You will use the first pan for sautéing the mushrooms.  Put 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter into the pan and let it melt.  Add your shallots and sliced sun-dried tomatoes into the pan and cook for about 4 minutes.  

Once that is cooked, add in your chanterelle and pink oyster mushrooms and let them cook down and eventually get some color.

While your mushrooms are going, sprinkle your chicken breast with salt and pepper and put in the pan with a small bit of olive oil.  Feel free to pound out the chicken breast so it isn’t tough.  Cook, turning once until it is cooked through.  

Let rest for 5-10 minutes while you finish the rest of your salad.

Knock out a quick salad dressing – my favorite method is to make it in a glass jar with a nice snug lid.  Add all of the ingredients at once and shake until emulsified.

Dice your fresh mushroom that you are going to add to the top.  This is optional.  Slice your rested chicken breast diagonally.  

Dress your salad and then add the chicken, cooked mushrooms, and the fresh mushroom on top.  Garnish with some fresh parsley on top if you'd like.  Enjoy eating healthfully!

1 chicken breast (preferably organic and free range - it tastes better I swear!)
1 cup sliced pink oyster mushrooms
1 cup sliced chanterelles
1/3 cup fresh white mushrooms, sliced
6 sun-dried tomatoes
1 small onion or 2 shallots
1 head of lettuce
optional 1 T of minced parsley for garnish

Salad Dressing:½ c. apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 ¼ c. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream, optional

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie and a Bonus Recipe! [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: medium (I'm not gonna lie. Time-consuming prep and sauce. But I'm also gonna tell you this will kick the crap out of any--any!!!--frozen pot pie you will ever buy.)
Time: 1 hour prep and cook
Serves: 3 to 4

Snow has blanketed (OK, spritzed) our backyard and it's time for a blazing fire and something warm and cozy to eat. Mike suggested homemade chicken pot pie. Right. Like that's easy.

To make it worth your while, make a big batch of the filling and freeze some for another night. And use purchased puff pastry for the crust.

The sauce is divine. It belongs to a chicken-stuffed-with-morels recipe my beautiful girlfriend Rosemary Schulz made BC (before children), again on a snowy night in their charming South Salem colonial, and I've never, ever forgotten it. (I'll include it in this post...) As I study the recipe, now browned at the edges and snaggle-toothed on three sides, I notice it's written carefully, in neatly formed script, with a proper slant, my handwriting from a very distant past. Life just speeds up.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 to 2 cups cooked chicken (I use the leftovers from my roasted chicken)
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced and briefly steamed
1 cup frozen peas, briefly steamed

Optional additions: 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped and sauteed briefly, 1/2 to
1 cup diced cooked potatoes (I've used leftover roasted potatoes to good effect),
1/2 cup sauteed onions (can make it a touch sweet though)

Puff pastry--defrost according to package directions. I've used Pepperidge Farm brand on this, but recently discovered Dufour Puff Pastry (at Whole Foods) which is in a class by itself, really amazing. I cook the puff pastry separately so it doesn't get soggy on top of the steamy veggies and chicken.

Ramekins (mine are 4 1/2 inches in diameter) OR one baking dish for the whole shebang

Place diced and cooked veggies and chopped cooked chicken in mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 F for the puff pastry (or whatever temp your package calls for). Roll out puff pastry on floured board or countertop.

Cut pieces slightly larger than the ramekin or baking dish you're using. Drape puff pastry over an upside-down empty ramekin (to hold the shape) and bake in oven according to package directions (I baked the Dufour about 20 minutes).

Make the sauce.

The Cream of Chicken Sauce
2 cups chicken broth (canned is fine here)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
(I make 1 1/2 times the recipe for 3 pies...)

Combine broth and wine in saucepan. Reduce to 1 cup. Melt butter in another saucepan and add flour, whisk. Add broth/wine, whisk, cook til thickened and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cream. Simmer about five minutes, stirring.

When pastry is done, pour the hot sauce over the veggies and chicken in mixing bowl. If not hot enough, transfer to saucepan and heat on the stove for a moment. Pour into ramekins or baking dish, top with baked crust and serve.

Bonus Recipe:
Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Morels and Wild Rice
10 dried morels
1/2 cup cooked wild rice
1 1/2 lbs whole boneless chicken breasts (can leave skin intact for extra juiciness)
1 tablespoon butter (plus butter for greasing the baking dish)
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
2 tablespoons cognac
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 1/2 cups cream of chicken sauce

Preheat over to 425 F.
Put morels in mixing bowl and add warm water to cover. Let stand 30 minutes until softened. Cook rice, set aside.

Split each breast lengthwise down the center to make two halves. Place breasts skin side down on flat surface and pound to thin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drain the morels and squeeze. Cut mushrooms into quarters. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in saucepan and add the onions. Cook until wilted. Add mushrooms and cook briefly. Add the wild rice, salt and pepper, and stir. Add cognac and chives. Remove from heat and cool.

Spoon some mixture into the center of each breast, fold over the sides, top and bottom of each fillet envelope-fashion, enclose completely. (Can hold together with a toothpick)

Arrange close together but not touching in baking dish (lightly buttered). Brush each breast with melted butter, place in oven and bake 20 minutes.

Liquid will accumulate around the breasts as they cook. Transfer breasts to warm serving dish. Reduce cooking liquid by half. Add to cream of chicken sauce. Spoon sauce over breasts and serve.

Suggested soundtrack: Jay Sean's "2012" has been running through my head for days...a happy little ditty for kitchen dancin' as you cook