Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chicken in Peanut Sauce

I always enjoy going out for ethnic foods and occassionally I try to make these different cuisines at home. It's fun to learn about the ingredients a culture uses and how to combine them to create unique flavors. This recipe is from North Africa, which is out of my comfort zone, but upon looking at the ingredient list I felt right at home. How could I go wrong with chicken, peanut butter and sweet potatoes? Combined with fragrant ginger and spicy red pepper flakes this is a sweet/spicy/smoky delight. The flavors blend beautifully, and the dish gets better the longer it cooks. It is so easy to make and will have your house smelling delicious! Enjoy this special dinner tonight- and make extras for leftovers!

Chicken in Peanut Sauce
A delicious, sweet and savory North African specialty.
Serves 4

1 T. oil
1 lb. chicken thighs, cut in 1 in. pieces
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ inch fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1 T. tomato paste
½ cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed in bite size pieces
1 tsp. salt
Chopped scallions and fresh cilantro, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken until browned all over. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is transparent. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the tomato paste and salt, and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding water if necessary to keep it moist. Meanwhile, cook the sweet potato in boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain.

Add the peanut butter, tomatoes, and sweet potato to the pan and cook for 20 minutes, until combined and tender. Add chopped scallions and cilantro to garnish. Serve atop a bed of warm rice with soy sauce.

Recipe adapted from Far Out Cookbook by Sarah Lang

Monday, October 17, 2011

Penne Ricotta with Shrimp and Sausage

I love to make cream sauces at home. I try to stay away from these sauces in restaurants as they are always loaded with extra fat and salt. (That’s why they taste so good!) At home I can control the ingredients and create a decadent sauce without the guilt. Enter ricotta cheese. Ricotta is delicious and is much lower in fat than heavy cream, which is often used to make cream sauce. This recipe only has one tablespoon of butter and it creates a rich, luscious sauce. I add plenty of garlic for delicious flavor, and Parmesan cheese for a salty bite. I used shrimp and chicken sausage in my version, but feel free to use any meat you like or no meat at all. You can never go wrong with a great sauce over pasta!

Penne Ricotta with Shrimp and Sausage
Creamy and comforting without being too heavy, this is my favorite cream sauce!
Serves 4

¾ pound penne pasta
1 cup whole milk ricotta
½ cup white wine
½ cup chicken broth
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
3 T. olive oil, divided
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 chicken sausages, sliced into bite size pieces
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and reserve.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic with a sprinkle of salt and the Italian seasoning, and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove into a medium bowl and set aside. Add more oil and the sausage. Sauté sausage until just cooked through. Remove into the bowl with the onions and garlic. Add the remaining oil and shrimp. Sauté until barely pink and remove into bowl to reserve.

Add butter to the same pan to melt, and then sprinkle in the flour. Stir to make a paste and cook for a minute. Add the chicken broth and bring up to a bubble, then reduce heat. Add the wine and allow the sauce to reduce slightly and thicken, about 5-8 minutes. Stir in the ricotta cheese until melted into the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Add the meat and onion mixture and stir, and then add the pasta. Stir to combine and add in some of the reserved pasta water if sauce seems dry.

Serve immediately with extra pepper and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula and Fresh Herb Dressing

I recently hosted a dinner party that featured grilled lamb, rosemary chicken and roasted potatoes. On the side I wanted to serve something light, flavorful and fresh to balance the roasted meats and potatoes. This pasta salad was the star. The homemade creamy herb dressing is loaded with fresh herbs. The arugula and tomatoes up the health-factor, and the pasta makes the dish decadent. I ate the leftovers for lunch for days! Next time you can have the meat and potatoes, I’m happy with this pasta salad!
Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Arugula and Fresh Herb Dressing
A healthy and delicious side dish that may be the star!
Serves 6
1 pound fusilli pasta
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped oregano leaves
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups baby arugula
1 1/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the fusilli until it is al dente. Drain the pasta and rinse it under cold water, then drain again; transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the cilantro with the basil, oregano and garlic and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice and process until smooth. Season the herb dressing with salt and pepper.

Toss the fusilli with fresh mozzarella, arugula, tomatoes, red onion and the herb dressing. Season the pasta salad with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Balsamic Marinated Tomato Salad

I recently discovered a delicious, healthy and flavorful way to create a salad dressing that is oh so much better than bottled dressings. I marinate tomatoes in balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar, and let them set on the counter to soak. The tomatoes get sweet and packed with flavor as the balsamic draws out the moisture. The marinated tomatoes are great on salad drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and are also delicious on grilled bread. Enjoy this healthy meal!

Balsamic Marinated Tomato Salad
An easy marinade that doubles as a salad dressing!
Makes 1 large salad

For the salad:
2 cups salad greens, such as romaine
2 T. red onion, minced
1/4 cup avocado, diced
Crumbled goat cheese
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

For the marinated tomatoes:
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 T. fresh parsley or basil, chopped

2 T. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Place the halved tomatoes to a small bowl along with fresh herbs. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar, and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.

Spread out the salad greens on a large plate and top with the onions, goat cheese and avocado. Drizzle with the olive oil, then use a slotted spoon to scoop the tomatoes out of the bowl on top of the salad- avoid taking all of the water. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Serve with grilled bread.

Recipe by Sarah Lang