Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thai Peanut Noodles with Shrimp Summer Rolls

One of my New Year's resolutions is to make more unique foods for my husband and me. I tend to stick to a repetoire of pizza, pasta and Mexican food, and I know it is time to break out of that cycle. So last night I created an Asian menu with tons of flavor and - best of all - it was also healthy! The menu was fantastic, and I'm excited to share it with you, because these dishes are good foundations that can be jazzed up with a variety of flavors and proteins to keep them interesting. You don't have to make these together either, the Thai Peanut Noodles are a meal on their own, and the Shrimp Summer Rolls would be fantastic with a simple salad or grilled chicken. The one ingredient listed that may not be in your pantry is rice vinegar. I am skeptical of recipes that require me to buy lots of new ingredients I'm afraid I'll never use again, but rice vinegar is an Asian staple that I guarantee you will find uses for again and again! So go for it!

Thai Peanut Noodles
A sweet peanuty sauce with delicious healthy flavors!
Serves 4

3/4 pound whole-wheat spaghetti
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

2 cups (about 9 ounces) broccoli florets
2 cups (about 6 ounces) snow peas, trimmed
2 cups (about 6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 scallion, cut into pieces
3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. While the pasta is cooking put the broccoli in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water and steam it for 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for 2 minutes more. Reserve noodles and veggies until ready to use.
Make the sauce by pureeing the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, scallion, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.

Cook the chicken over medium-high heat in a large wok or skillet in some olive oil. Once cooked through, add the noodles and veggies and stir until combined and warm. Reduce heat to low and stir in the peanut sauce. Toss until combined.

Serve in large bowls topped with chopped peanuts and cilantro with a big squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Shrimp Summer Rolls
Fresh and delicious, full of good-for-you flavors!
Makes 10 rolls

Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup water
3 T. rice vinegar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 T. finely grated carrot
1 garlic clove, minced

2 oz. rice vermicelli (also called maifun or rice sticks)
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, seeded, halved and cut into thin strips
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 T. canola oil
2 T. lime juice
1.5 tsp. kosher salt
10 round rice spring roll skins
10 large cooked and peeled shrimp, halved lengthwise
20 fresh mint leaves

Whisk all sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice noodles, cover and remove from the heat and let sti for 10 minutes. Stir with a fork to separate noodles and drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl. Add carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, scallions, cilantro, oil, lime juice, and salt and stir to combine.

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Dip a spring roll skin into the water just until pliable. Place the skin on a work surface and pat dry. Mound 1/3 cup of the noodle mixture across the center of the skin roll skin. Top with 2 shrimp halves and 2 mint leaves. Fold over the two ends of the spring roll skin, then roll up the spring roll tightly. Keep in a plate covered with a damp paper towel until ready to serve. Assemble others and serve with dipping sauce.

Recipes adapted from Food Network and Sorg's.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eggplant Marinara Cheesebread

You know the cheesy, gooey bread you get from pizzerias? We all know we love it! So why not make it at home, and make it a little bit healthier by adding fresh vegetables? That's the thing I love about cooking, you can make comfort food that isn't quite health food, but you can feel good about eating it because you know what's in it. This cheesy Eggplant Marinara Flatbread is the perfect example. It has everything I love about pizzeria cheese bread, but I feel good about eating it! Don't like eggplant? See below recipe for other veggie options, or forgo the veggies altogether for some good ol' cheesebread. This technique is a keeper and will surely satisfy all of your cheesebread cravings!
Eggplant Marinara Cheesebread
A perfect appetizer or light supper!
Serves 4 as a meal, 8 as an appetizer

4 T. olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, sliced in 1/4 in. thick slices
1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut horizontally in half, trimmed to 9-inch length
1 ½ cups marinara sauce
2 oz. soft fresh goat cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle eggplant with salt and pepper. Place in skillet and cover. Cook until tender, turning, 10 minutes. Transfer to plate.

Brush cut sides of ciabatta bread with remaining oil. Cook one at a time in skillet, cut side down, until golden (about 1 minute).

Place bread, cut side up, on baking sheet. Spread each half with ½ cup of the marinara sauce. Crumble goat cheese over and sprinkle with chopped basil. Top with eggplant. Mound mozzarella on eggplant, and spoon remaining marinara sauce over top.

Bake bread until topping is hot and crust is crisp, about 12 minutes. Cut each half into 4 pieces. Garnish with basil leaves.

*Don't like eggplant? This recipe would be equally delicious with charred tomatoes or zucchini. Prepare the zucchini similarly to the eggplant. For the tomatoes do not cover skillet, simply grill while turning frequently until blistered.

Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fettuccini alla Carbonara

Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta sauces. It's a cream sauce made without cream, and has a beautiful depth of flavor from the egg and bacon. I have made carbonara sauce numerous times, and have failed to produce a creamy, smooth sauce during most attempts. But these failed attempts were not for nothing; I am happy to say that I have now mastered carbonara! I created the recipe below out of a combination of many recipes and techniques, and it is by far the most fool-proof way to make this creamy, rich sauce. Enjoy!

Fettuccini alla Carbonara
The BEST way to make this creamy and amazing pasta!
Serves 4

1 pound fettuccini pasta (or spaghetti)
2 T olive oil
6 slices bacon (or 4 oz. pancetta), chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 large fresh eggs
2 T. milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl. Add the milk and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Set aside 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water (dip a mug into the pot while pasta is boiling).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a big skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and saute for 2-3 minutes until crisp. Add the garlic and onion and saute in the fat for another minute.

Drain the pasta and add to the large skillet. Toss for a minute with the bacon, onions and garlic until it is well coated in the oil.

Slowly add half of the reserved hot pasta water to the egg and cheese mixture while whisking. This will temper the eggs and raise their temperature so that they will not scramble when added to the hot pan.

Remove the skillet of pasta from the heat and SLOWLY add the egg mixture while stirring. This is done off the heat to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Feel free to add more reserved pasta water if the sauce seems dry.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Recipe by Sarah Lang