Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mushroom Risotto with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Red Peppers

A couple weeks ago my friend Emily taught me how to make risotto. I had tried to make it once before and failed miserably. After learning from Emily I realized that was because I was impatient and hungry when making it, causing me to rush through the process without allowing the risotto to become fully cooked and creamy. This time around I took my sweet time, and the risotto was one of the best things I've ever tasted from my own kitchen. In fact, my husband said it was the best meal I've EVER made! (It didn't hurt that I served him lamb chops with his, either.) Here is my recipe for this incredible, decadent and melt-in-your-mouth risotto. Don't make it if you're rushed for time or too hungry to be patient. It takes about 35 minutes start-to-finish and a lot of stirring, but I tell you now, it is worth it!

Mushroom Risotto with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Red Peppers
A decadent and delicious pasta dish- feel free to substitute your favorite ingredients for the veggies!
Serves 2-3

1 cup arborio rice
2/3 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 8 oz. package sliced assorted mushrooms
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 large shallot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 T. parsley or basil, chopped
Salt & pepper

Heat the chicken broth in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 2 minutes, then add the red peppers and garlic. Saute until soft and fragrant. Add the mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes until browned. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove the veggies into a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Heat the butter until melted then add the rice. Stir for a minute to coat in the butter, then add half of the wine (1/3 cup). Stir until it is absorbed into the risotto, then start adding the  warm chicken broth 1/3 of a cup at a time, stirring frequently until absorbed into the risotto, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to add the chicken broth and stir until the risotto is creamy and tender. This takes about 25-30 minutes. You can always add more chicken broth to achieve the desired tenderness.

Once the risotto is tender add the Parmesan cheese and remaining 1/3 cup of wine and stir to combine, then add in all of the reserved veggies and parsley or basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, May 27, 2011

Open-Face Caprese Sandwiches and Strawberry Walnut Salad

I miss my husband when he is out of town, but there is one thing I look forward to- eating whatever I want for dinner! This week I craved a healthy and delicious light meal made with fresh in-season ingredients. I made an Open-Face Caprese Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, roma tomatoes and basil on top of warm ciabatta bread. The gooey cheese, light garlic flavor and fresh ingredients are a wonderful combination. Along with it I made one of my favorite salads, fresh lettuce topped with crunchy toasted walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and sliced strawberries. Next time your meat-eating husband is out of the house take advantage with this delicious vegetarian meal!

Open-Face Caprese Sandwiches
Crunchy warm bread topped with gooey cheese, tomatoes and basil!

Ciabatta bread
Garlic clove, sliced in half
Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and sliced
Basil, chiffonade
Fresh mozzarella, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh paper

Preheat the broiler. Slice the Ciabatta lengthwise and into 3-4" slices. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes until beginning to brown and get crisp on the edges. Remove bread and reduce the heat of the oven to 375 degrees. Immediately rub bread with the cut end of a garlic clove to impart garlicky flavor. Lay a slice of mozzarella cheese over the bread and bake in oven until it is melted, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and top with sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

Strawberry Walnut Salad
Sweet and flavorful, this salad is a keeper!

Green leaf lettuce, or your favorite kind
Strawberries, sliced
Goat cheese, crumbled
Walnuts, toasted in a dry pan until fragrant (about 5-6 minutes)
Kosher salt and pepper

In a large bowl toss the lettuce with just enough of your favorite raspberry or strawberry vinaigrette dressing until lightly coated. Top with strawberries, goat cheese and walnuts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Recipes by Sarah Lang

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chinese Stir Fry with Tilapia and Avocado Spring Rolls

Making Asian food at home is one of my favorite ways to sneak extra veggies into my diet. I love a good stir fry with salty/sweet flavors and the crunch of fresh veggies. Rather than cut up the fish in the stir fry I think it’s more visually appealing to bake the tilapia and lay it on top of the veggies, which are on top of the rice. It really pulls the whole plate together into a pretty presentation. The tilapia is flaky and juicy and its soft texture beautifully complements the crunchy veggies. On the side I made fresh Avocado Spring Rolls. I could eat a dozen of these. Soft noodles, crunchy lettuce, red pepper, and creamy avocado combine for the perfect morsel. Dip it in your favorite store-bought Asian sauce (I like spicy stir fry sauce or sweet ginger sauce) and it’s a fantastic meal!

Chinese Stir Fry with Tilapia
A healthy and delicious Asian meal.Serves 2

Light oil, such as canola or vegetable
2 tilapia filets
2 tsp. curry powder
½ cup broccoli florets, in bite size pieces
8 asparagus spears, cut into bite size pieces
½ red bell pepper, large dice
½ onion, large dice
1 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 lime
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. fish sauce
1 tsp. brown sugar
Rice, for serving
Siracha sauce, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle oil over tilapia filets and sprinkle with salt, pepper and curry powder. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the onion and bell pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, asparagus and juice of half a lime, stir, and cover to steam for 1 minute. (If your skillet doesn’t have a lid use tin foil)

In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and one tablespoon of water. Whisk to combine.

Take the lid off the pan and add the soy sauce mixture. Stir and let cook for a couple minutes until it coats the vegetables.

To serve put a scoop of prepared rice (I like Jasmine) on your plate, top with half the veggies, and lay the tilapia filet on top. Squeeze extra lime juice and serve with spicy siracha sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

Recipe by Sarah Lang
Avocado Spring Rolls

Flavorful and addictive, spring rolls are the perfect accompaniment to any Asian meal!
Makes 6 rolls

6 spring roll wrappers
6 leaves green leaf lettuce
½ of a red bell pepper, sliced into 12 thin strips
¼ of a cucumber, sliced into 12 thin strips
1 small avocado, sliced
½ cup rice noodles, softened
Asian dipping sauce, for serving

Prepare all of the veggies and soften the noodles so rolls are ready to assemble. In a large bowl soften a spring roll wrapper then place on a paper towel lined plate. Blot up the excess water, then place 1/6th of the noodles, a lettuce leaf, 2 strips of bell pepper, 2 strips of cucumber, and 1/6th of the avocado (about 3 strips) in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the sides in then tightly roll. Repeat with remaining wraps. Store in fridge covered with a damp paper towel until ready to eat. Serve with your favorite Asian dipping sauce.

Recipe by Sarah Lang

Friday, May 6, 2011

Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb

Lamb is my husband's favorite food, he orders it everywhere we go. Lamb was something I had never made at home, but for his birthday I promised him I'd give it a go. I went to the store, asked the butcher for 1.75 pounds, and thanked him as he handed it over, perfectly cleaned and fresh. Then I saw the price tag. $65! Yes, the lamb at my lovely gourmet grocery store was $35 per pound. I called Kevin and said, "How do you feel about steak for your birthday dinner?" Once I told him the price of the lamb he thought that was a great idea! So we didn't have lamb for his birthday but I knew I owed him one. We were at Costco that weekend and guess what, Australian rack of lamb was $12 per pound! Yes- I love Costco! We bought a nice size rack and I went home and made my first ever Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb. I adapted my version from Food & Wine magazine and several other recipes I scoured as I prepared for the meal. My preparation is a combination of a roasted rack and pan fried individual chops. I served it with creamy gnocchi, sweet potato fries and homemade yogurt dip. Success!

Garlic-Crusted Roast Rack of Lamb
Juicy, tender chops in a flavorful crust.
Serves 2

8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup rosemary leaves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 rack of lamb, frenched
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a mini food processor, combine the garlic, rosemary and olive oil and process until the garlic is finely chopped. Season the lamb rack with salt and pepper and rub the garlic-rosemary oil all over them. Set the rack fat side up on a large rimmed baking sheet and let stand for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Roast the lamb in the upper third of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the rack and roast for 10 minutes longer for rare meat. Transfer the racks to a carving board, stand them upright and let rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Carve the racks in between the rib bones. Sear each chop for 30 seconds on each side for medium-rare. Serve immediately with yogurt sauce.

Yogurt sauce
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until serving.
                                               Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Classic Lasagna and Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

Lasagna is one of my all time favorite meals to make for company. It's delicious, everyone loves it, and you can make it in advance! I have been making lasagna for years without using a recipe, and this is my first time to record my classic version. It's a long recipe but the steps are simple. It's easiest to divide up your tasks: 1. Sauce; 2. Meat; 3. Cheese; 4. Assembly. You'll put your own spin on these elements, and before you know it you won't need to use a recipe either. There are two keys to a perfect lasagna- season every layer and let it rest at least 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with garlic bread or bruschetta and easy and elegant prosciutto-wrapped asparagus bundles for a stunning and flavorful meal. Enjoy!

Classic Lasagna
A rich homemade tomato sauce melts into flavorful meat, veggies and gooey cheese!
Serves 6-8

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 medium onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
½ cup dry red wine
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Heat the EVOO in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened. Add the garlic and stir for one minute. Add the dried herbs and stir until incorporated. Dump both cans of tomatoes into the pot and stir to combine. Bring up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Add wine and fresh herbs and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat.

Cheese Filling:
1 container whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup cottage cheese
1 egg
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

In a medium bowl combine all ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1 package mushrooms, chopped (optional)
2 T. tomato paste
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium high heat and add meat. Break up with a wooden spoon and stir for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms if using and stir to incorporate until mixture is browned and cooked through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Set aside.

1 package lasagna noodles
12 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, from a log
12 slices provolone cheese
Parmesan cheese

Soak lasagna noodles in hot tap water until softened, about 10 minutes. Spread a ladle full of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles and top with half of meat mixture, 1/3 of tomato sauce, 4 slices of provolone cheese, and half of cheese filling. Add another layer of lasagna noodles and repeat layering. Add another layer of noodles and top with remaining slices of provolone, tomato sauce, and all of the fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-45 minutes until browned and bubbly. Let set for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe by Sarah Lang

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus Bundles
The easiest and most delicious side dish in my repertoire!
Serves 4 (2 bundles each)
32 fresh thin asparagus spears (about ¾ pound)
8 slices prosciutto
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Divide asparagus into groups of 4. Wrap with a slice of prosciutto and place on a non-stick baking sheet (a sheet with a baking rack is ideal). Drizzle with EVOO and sprinkle with pepper and a tiny bit of salt on tips of spears only (not prosciutto). Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until prosciutto is caramelized and asparagus is beginning to brown.

Recipe by Sarah Lang