Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fancy Pants App: Comte Gougeres

I'm all over the board this week because today I'm giving you the absolutely perfect appetizer to start your Easter dinner.  Hey, we cater to everyone on this blog, right?!  When we were in France a few weeks back, John picked up a whole bunch of French cheese on our last day there while I was in meetings all day.  And since I wasn't there to stop him, he bought a LOT of French cheese.

Yes, the man who dislikes the French "culture" (his word, not mine) loves French cheeses.  It's practically the only thing I can get him to agree about France's superiority.  One of his cheese purchases was my favorite French cheese, Comte.  It is a hard cheese with such an amazing flavor.  It's hard to imagine that you could find anything truly comparable in the States. 

Knowing I had such a delicious cheese at home, I kept thinking about how I had to do it justice.  So what better than gougeres, traditional French cheese puffs?!  I've spoke about my love for France and its countryside and food and every other aspect you could possible imagine so much that I'm not going to rehash it for you.  Easter is the perfect time for some delicious food and these cheese puffs are so easy, I can see them on all of your Easter tables!
Comte Gougeres (adapted from Manger by Mimi Thorisson)
Serves:  12 (36 gougeres)
1 cup water
7 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/4 cups flour
4 eggs
2 cups grated Comte or Gruyere cheese
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F.  In a large saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil over medium heat.  Add the flour, stirring very fast and immediately removing from the heat.  The batter should quickly form a soft ball.  Add each egg, one by one, stirring well into each addition, until the dough becomes a smooth batter.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups grated cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Line three large cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Using 2 teaspoons, spoon 2 tablespoons full of dough into an evenly shaped ball.  Place on the parchment paper or foil.  Repeat, spacing the gougeres about 1-2 inches apart, until all 36 gougeres have been formed and placed on the cookie sheets.  Then, glaze with the egg yolk and sprinkle the dough with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.  Serve immediately.  Or, let them cool and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.  Prior to serving, heat them in a 400 degrees F oven for 5-7 minutes until warmed through. 

Until the next time my oven is on...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Date Night Dinner: Matzo Ball Soup

It's occurred to me that I haven't exactly been fair to my heritage.  Since my last name and my Dad's big family are so Italian, and we grew up with all the Italian favorites as kids, it's easy to keep ourselves in that one vein.  But in reality, our heritage is so diverse.  My mom comes from a smaller and more reserved family; we don't get to see them as much.  And while we celebrate many Jewish holidays, I realize I haven't really written about them a lot on the blog.

I've been thinking a lot lately about that and about how seeing two different religions (from my mom and my dad) have taught me a lot more than perhaps I thought when I was younger.  Embracing these two unique heritages, I decided it was high time to feature a traditional Jewish-American dish.  I wanted to make my own matzo balls.  Our matzo balls are a thing of beauty because they come from the same little restaurant every year.  Awa drives herself over and picks up like way too many matzo balls and some chicken broth and I'm content to eat that every night for dinner until they are gone.  In fact, when I lived in Boston, I used to take some back with me.

This year, Awa decided to actually use her oven (this is a serious moment people) and make us her famous brisket (which throws me back to years ago when we used to wait for eating her brisket at her fancy dining room in her house - talk about special evenings for 3 young girls)!  I figured if Awa could embrace a challenge, so could I.  And so, Saturday I spent making some matzo balls.  Passover started last night but it doesn't end until next Tuesday, plenty of time to make some of your own!

Matzo Ball Soup
Serves:  10 (10 mazto balls)
1 1/2 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon parsley, minced
4 eggs
4 tablespoons oil
5 quarts chicken stock (make your own)

In a large bowl, mix matzo meal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and minced parsley.  In a small bowl combine eggs and oil.  Pour the eggs into the matzo meal and stir with a fork until blended.  Cover and let rest 45 minutes in the fridge.  Then, use your hands to make 10 large matzo balls.

Bring chicken stock to a rolling boil.  Turn down the heat so the stock just simmers and add the matzo balls.  Cover and cook for 30 minutes, without lifting the lid.  Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the lid and serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time-Out: Pesto Rosso with Sundried Tomatoes

Pesto Rosso, or red pesto, is a very common variation on traditional Genovese pesto - you know, the green one with the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and cheese.  But since there isn't a ton of basil out yet, I wanted to show you a different side of pesto.  Maybe it's slightly complex and brooding older brother.We used sundried tomatoes because, well, I had them.

And also because I had them recently in a dish at a restaurant and realized how much I love that flavor.  It's funny how, when you're a blogger (or even if you're just adventurous in the kitchen like sister K), you are so focused on trying new and different things that you often pass up the things you once loved most and served in and on everything.  Practically everything. And, this pesto made me dream of Italy.  As you know, because we have yet to plan a vacation for ourselves, I've become obsessed with pretty much any place that isn't New York.

It's not even just Europe - I dream about the West Coast, Mexico, you name it...I've been researching it.  How John puts up with it all is beyond me.  I'm lucky he's so easygoing!  He is convinced that because we're going on a massive family vacation to Alaska this summer, that should be our vacation.  I appreciate his frugalness but am also looking forward to a vacation just for us but if that doesn't happen, we can look on the bright side and think that our budget for our 2015 vacation just doubled, right?  Italy, here we come!
Pesto Rosso with Sundried Tomatoes
Serves:  6 (2 cups pesto)
8-10 sundried tomatoes packed in oil
4 tablespoons basil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon almonds
4 tablespoons sundried tomato oil

In a strong food processor, add sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and almonds.  Process until almonds are barely visible and sundried tomatoes are chunky but broken down, 1-2 minutes.  Continue to process and slowly pour in the sundried tomato oil.  Process an additional minute, until the mixture is emulsified.  Store in a jar for up to 1 week.

We like it over pasta or even as a base for our pizzas!

Until the next time my oven is on...

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Weeknight Dinner: Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Salad

The weather isn't even that warm right now in New York but I am all about springtime.  I think it has to be the fact that we just turned the calendar, too quickly, this time to April.  April is supposed to be springtime right?  That's what I tell myself when I put my winter coat on (again) and trudge to work.  You don't trudge in spring - it's more like a stroll.  But I am still trudging.

If I can't make the weather cooperate with my springtime agenda, at least I can make our meals feel more like spring!  As you know, due to sister M's impending nuptials (um, still 10 months away) but also my ability to never stop eating delicious foods, I have about 10ish pounds to lose before I can wear a bridesmaids dress and walk down the aisle with my two absolutely svelte and gorgeous sisters.  So I've been utterly focused on delicious dinners that don't pack on the pounds.

Emphasis on delicious of course.  Plus, now that I'm eating 1-2 dinners a week at work, and subject to whatever is purchased, I have to put some extra thought into the few weeknight meals I get to eat at home.  Oh, and don't feel bad for John.  He's having a lovely time enjoying leftovers or getting to eat from his favorite neighborhood restaurants.
Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Salad (adapted from Everyday Reading)
Serves:  4
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1 chicken breast
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup shallot, diced fine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced well
1 avocado, sliced thin
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.  Rinse the quinoa and put it in a pot with 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Then, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15-20 minutes until the water is completely absorbed.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, season the chicken with half of the salt and pepper.  Grill 3-5 minutes, per side, until cooked through.  Slice into thin slices and set aside. 

Toss the tomatoes, spinach and shallot together in a large mixing bowl. Add the quinoa and chicken, stir well.

Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl or cup, then drizzle over the quinoa and mix well to coat.

Gently top with the avocado and feta, salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Time-Out: Spinach Gnocchi

We celebrated brother-to-be M's birthday at a restaurant close to our childhood home.  It's a big Italian-American restaurant with something for everyone.  I'm serious - their menu is expansive.  It's almost too big, if you know what I mean.  So naturally, my eyes wandered away from the too-much-to-choose-from menu to the 4 specials, on a paper print out in the middle of the table.  One of them, Spinach Gnocchi in a sundried tomato sauce sounded just too good to be true.  I couldn't wait to taste it.

It was as delicious as my mind had envisioned.  In fact, we brought home over half of it and John could not stop exclaiming over it.  That was over 3 weeks ago but I knew that I would make spinach gnocchi myself, and soon.  Of course, as fate would have it, John bought a huge bag of spinach at the store...and then didn't eat it all week.  It was on it's very last legs and I knew it was time for the spinach gnocchi of my dreams.

I always enjoy cooking in the kitchen with John and these gnocchi were perfect for us to do together.  I rolled out the gnocchi and cut them, John rolled them on our new gnocchi roller, courtesy of his brother and sister-in-law from Christmas.  They came out so professional looking.  Best of all?  Afterwards, we threw them in the freezer and then into a zippered plastic bag.  We had them later in the week for an easy and delicious weeknight meal!
Spinach Gnocchi
Serves:  4 (1 pound pasta)
8 ounces spinach
12 ounces ricotta
1 egg
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups flour

In a small food processor, grind the spinach until it is in tiny pieces.  In a large bowl, add spinach, ricotta, egg, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pepper, salt, garlic powder, and nutmeg.  Mix well until the mixture is completely blended.  Slowly add the flour into the mixture, until it is no longer sticky.

Split the dough into 6 pieces.  Roll each piece out onto a well-floured surface.  Cut the roll into small bite-sized gnocchi.  Roll each gnocchi onto your gnocchi roller for those perfect lines (or use the back of a fork).   Either cook immediately in boiling water for 8-10 minutes, until the gnocchi float.  Or, place the gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze 1-2 hours, until firm.  Place into a large plastic bag and seal shut.  Freeze until ready to use.  Use them right from the freezer and cook in boiling water for 12-15 minutes.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Brilliant Brunch: Cinnamon Crepes

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my past.  Not my recent past either...but like my 10+ year past.  Also, how crazy is it that I can say that - that I distinctly remember my dreams and life 10+ years ago.  Ack.  Anyway, you know how much I loved French as a 6th grader and beyond, learning the language in school every year.  I used to walk around the house saying random phrases in French and teaching them to my sisters.  My sisters still enjoy showing off some of those limited French words I passed along.  Which is funny because today, I've actually been to France.  And not just once, but twice.  Knowing that I get to work on both of my company's assets in France sometimes blows me away.
Granted, I've only been to Paris and there's plenty more of France I want to explore.  And if you're anything like me and your dreams exceed your budget and vacation time, well, you need to find other ways to satisfy the cravings.  One of my favorite things to do when we were in France was buy some fresh crepes.  There are little stalls outside some restaurants and you can watch the people make you your crepe and stuff it with whatever you want.  They fold it up, slip it in some wax paper, and off you go.

The last time I was in Paris, my boss made mention of a French blog that she loves to follow.  It's by a French TV show host, Mimi Thorison, called "Manger".  Now obviously, this woman has no clue I exist but I had to share her blog with you, along with her recipe for cinnamon crepes.  If you're anything like me, and want to take a stroll in the French countryside, transport yourself through Manger.  And then, just maybe, you'll get there yourself.  I'm still holding out hope for a French countryside trip in the near future!
Cinnamon Crepes (adapted from Manger)
Serves:  4
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk (we used skim)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 pear, diced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

In a 9-inch heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Turn off the heat once the butter is fully melted and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk sugar and eggs.  Then, slowly add milk, flour, and vanilla extract.  The batter should be smooth and liquidy.  Add the cinnamon and whisk well.  Then, add all the cooled butter and mix again.

Heat the same 9-inch pan over medium heat.  When the pan is very hot, spoon about 1/3 cup of batter, swirling the pan so the batter spreads out evenly.  Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the edges start to brown.  Using a large spatula, carefully go around the edges, lifting them from the pan.  Flip the crepe and cook about 1 minute on the other side.  Place on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Continue with the rest of the batter, adding finished crepes to the plate and re-covering them.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat the whipped cream until soft peaks form.

When the crepes are warm and pliable, but cool enough to touch, place 1 tablespoon of whipped cream in the center of the pancake.  Top with 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of diced pears.  Fold in half, and fold in half again, to make triangles.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Weeknight Dinner: Thai Tuna Salad

I've had a crisis once I turned 28.  I am feeling a lot better now but part of me is wondering what is most important in my life and how I can maximize my time doing those things.  And what I should give up so I don't always feel exhausted, behind, and overwhelmed outside the office.  It's funny, in the office, I am totally in control - I don't let a lot faze me.  And, I'm pretty much always on top of my work.

But out of the office?  I never have enough brainpower during the week and time to do everything I want to.  This has led me to question whether or not my blog should continue this year.  Am I overtaxing myself?  Am I stopping myself from doing other things that make me happy because I feel the blog has to come first?

And then, I make a dinner like this one.  And it's hard to imagine NOT sharing these types of delicious dinners with you all.  Even if "you all" is only a few people, each of you are still important to me.  So, I share with you my delicious salad.  Make it tonight.  If not tonight, then the minute it gets warm enough to turn on the grill.  You won't regret it. 
Thai Tuna Salad (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  2
2 6-ounce tuna steaks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots, julienned
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
1 orange, sections and chopped in half
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon sriracha

Grease the grill with cooking spray.  Season the tuna with salt and pepper.  Cook 2 minutes on each side, or until done, per your liking.  Transfer to a cutting board and tent.

Meanwhile, combine cabbage, cucumber, carrots, red onion, and orange in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk sugar, cilantro, lime juice, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sriracha until fully combined.  Toss the dressing with the cabbage salad.  Divide evenly between 2 plates.  Cut each tuna steak into slices and place over the salad.   Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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