Monday, January 30, 2012

Steak and Tomato Foccacia Toasts

These foccacia toasts are a beautiful and impressive appetizer or first course. I served this dish as part of a “surf and turf” menu with lobster mac & cheese. I love recipes that feature meat as an integrated part of the dish, not the main ingredient. The steak on these foccacia toasts is loaded with flavor from roasted garlic and rosemary, and the fresh oven dried tomato beautifully compliments the earthy steak. The roasted red pepper mayo is easy to make with a gentle kick and gorgeous red color. Topped off with a few pieces of arugula this is one of the most colorful and flavorful recipes in my repertoire!

Steak and Tomato Foccacia Toasts
A impressive appetizer or first course. Serves 10
1 pound cherry tomatoes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
½ lemon, juiced
½ cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot chili paste
1 strip steak or sirloin steak, about 10 ounces
1 loaf focaccia bread, sliced and toasted
Baby arugula, for garnish
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss the tomatoes into a roasting pan, drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes have collapsed, about 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Drizzle the garlic with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and bake it until soft, about 30 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the soft garlic onto a cutting board. Strip the needles from the rosemary, add them to the garlic, and chop them together. Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into a small bowl; add the garlic and rosemary mixture and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Add the steak to the marinade and refrigerate for 20 minutes up to 4 hours.

Put the roasted red pepper into a blender. Add the mayonnaise and chili paste and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; refrigerate until ready to use. (Can be made the day before. This is delicious spread on sandwiches!)

Heat the grill or a skillet. Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1/2 hour before you are going to grill it. Grill the steak until the meat is rare or medium rare. Remove to a platter and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut the beef into thin slices.

To serve, put some of the flavored mayonnaise onto a piece of focaccia toast. Top it with a thin slice of the beef and spoon on some of the roasted tomatoes. Garnish with some arugula leaves and serve at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Red Chile Chicken Enchiladas

I recently returned from a weekend trip to Albuquerque where I enjoyed amazing New Mexican cuisine. As anyone who has been there knows, chile sauce is king. You have the choice of green or red sauce, or you can be like me and order both. After returning home I knew I had to try my hand homemade chili sauce, so I made these delicious chicken enchiladas with red chile sauce. The sauce is packed with complex flavor, and the enchiladas soaked it up into every morsel. While I made the enchiladas with the more traditional corn tortillas, flour tortillas would also be delicious and would hold their shape even better. Stay tuned for a future blog post on green chili sauce and the verdict for the ultimate winner!

Red Chile Chicken Enchiladas
A traditional dish bursting with Southwestern flavors.
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 medium onion ,chopped fine
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)
1/2cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 jalapeƱos, minced
11 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 3/4 cups)
10 corn tortillas (six-inch)
Vegetable cooking spray

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with spices, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and 3/4 cup water; stir to separate chicken pieces. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and flavors have melded, about 8 minutes. Pour mixture through medium-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on chicken and onions to extract as much sauce as possible; set sauce aside. Transfer chicken mixture to large plate; freeze for 10 minutes to cool, then combine with cilantro, jalapenos, and 2 cups of the cheese in medium bowl and set aside.

Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees.

Spread a couple spoonfuls of sauce onto the bottom of your baking dish. Spray each side of tortilla with cooking spray and bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until soft, warm and pliable. Spoon 1/3 cup of filling into each tortilla. Place seam-side down in baking dish. Pour remaining sauce over tortillas and top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake enchiladas on lower-middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately with sour cream, avocado, lettuce, and lime wedges.

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Asparagus, Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Prosciutto

It's January and the holidays are officially over. I feel the need to load up on vegetables and healthy cooking to make up for all that holiday splurging! However, there is a borderline between healthy eating and depriving yourself. I never deprive myself, but instead make sure that everything I eat is absolutely delicious, even if it is healthy. This salad is a perfect example. It's good for you, yes. But it's also delicious. The asparagus pairs beautifully with the sweet melon and salty prosciutto. And the mozzarella makes it feel a bit more decadent than your everyday vegetable side dish. Dressed in a light lemon vinaigrette, this salad almost makes me think of spring! You have to have something to look forward to, right?

Asparagus, Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Prosciutto
A delightfully light and healthful salad.
Serves 4

3 thin prosciutto slices
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup cubed melon
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella balls (bocconcini)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the prosciutto in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Chop the prosciutto into 1/4-inch pieces.

In a medium bowl, toss together the asparagus and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast asparagus on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the melon and mozzarella cheese and toss until all ingredients are combined.

Arrange the asparagus on a platter. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the melon and mozzarella cheese on top of the asparagus. Drizzle any remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with prosciutto and serve at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from Giada de Laurentis

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

I had a very grown-up New Year's Eve this year that consisted of staying in and cooking a 3-course dinner for my husband and another couple. I have to say, it was my favorite meal of the year! The starter course was a foccacia toast with roasted red pepper mayonnaise, steak, and oven dried tomato (blog post soon!). For the second course I served a French onion soup. And the main course, the star, was this amazing lobster macaroni & cheese! Imagine the most decadent, creamy, flavorful macaroni & cheese possible, then add fresh lobster meat to take it to a whole new level! This is definitely a splurge of a meal, but for a special occassion it is a crowd-pleaser with a major wow factor. Serve with a light green salad tossed in lemon vinaigrette and plenty of champagne! (Note, this recipe would also be delicious without the lobster.)

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese
A decadent and delicious baked pasta
Serves 4

Kosher salt
Vegetable oil
1/2 pound cavatappi or elbow macaroni
1/2 quart mill
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (2 cups)
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 pounds cooked lobster meat
1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (3 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a large pot, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1/2 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in a casserole dish that is rubbed with butter.
Melt the remaining 1 tablespoons of butter, combine it with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten, Food Network