October 29, 2011

Thai Pumpkin Curry

It's creamy and warming. A marriage of complex flavors without the complex effort.

This authentic tasting curry is healthy and satisfyingly flavorful. The coconut milk and pumpkin combine to create a luxurious and velvety sauce that is laced with bright bursts of lime balanced by the nutty, caramel tone of sauteed onions and spices. 

Best yet, it comes together in minutes. I used firm tofu because that is what I had on hand, but it's a versatile dish that would be equally wonderful with sauteed chunks of chicken or plump shrimp. Don't be deterred by the coconut milk, which is an ingredient many may not have on hand. It's an essential part of what makes this so authentically Thai. But once you whip up this curry, canned light coconut milk will surely become a pantry staple in your house as it now has in mine (and at about 99 cents a pop, it's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to Thailand). 

Thai Pumpkin Curry: serves two generously
Canola oil for pan
1/2 package of firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cubed
1/2 large white or yellow onion, cut into small wedges
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 T. curry powder
1 t. mustard
1 t. cumin
1 t. turmeric
2 dried chiles de arbol
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews or almonds
1/2 14.5oz can Pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 14.5 oz. can light coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
2 T. dried coconut flakes
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt to taste
Brown rice for serving

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add enough oil to coat the skillet and heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and tofu, cooking until the onion is soft and golden, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, curry, mustard, cumin, turmeric, chiles, and nuts, and stir, 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, pumpkin, milk, and coconut flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for two minutes until slightly thickened. Add the lime zest and lime juice and stir. Salt to taste. Serve over brown rice. 

October 25, 2011

Hazelnut Pesto Pasta with Brussels Sprouts

Roasted brussels sprouts are a warming and delightful way to enjoy one of the best flavors of Fall. When tossed with a non-traditional, earthy sauce of hazelnut pesto, the combination becomes a hearty nod to the lingering days of summer, too.

The hazelnut pesto is more grounded and mellow than the usual all-basil pesto due to its use of parsley instead. Since the flavors of the sauce are so balanced, the tender and toasty brussels sprouts really shine.
Sauteing the sprouts creates a delightful and mildly addicting brown crust on each bite. This delectable pasta dish is a welcome canvas for these often (sadly) misunderstood and too-often cast aside, but truly scrumptious, baby cabbages.

Pasta with Hazelnut Pesto and Brussels Sprouts: makes 4-6 servings
1 3/4 cups packed fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup packed basil
2/3 cups toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup olive oil, plus additional as needed
1 recipe fresh egg pasta, prepared as linguine, or 1 box dried linguine
1 lb. fresh brussels sprouts (heads should be small, tight, with no brown)
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Rinse the brussels sprouts and drain. Trim the bottom portion of each sprout, keeping the base intact, then quarter each. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large pan over medium low heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the sprouts.
Gently toss the sprouts every few minutes to keep from burning. Saute until they are lightly browned and tender, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, set a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. While the water is heating, make the pesto by adding all of the ingredients from the parsley through the olive oil to the food processor. Process until completely blended, scraping down the sides as necessary. When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to the directions until barely al-dente.

Using a pasta ladle, spoon all of the noodles directly into the pan with the brussels sprouts. Pour the hazelnut pesto sauce over the noodles and pesto and toss well. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Add kosher salt to taste and serve topped with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese.

Fresh Egg Pasta

This is my go-to recipe for fresh egg pasta. I roll this pasta out with my Kitchen-Aid Pasta Roller Attachment. It's a wonderful way to produce big, beautiful sheets of lasagna noodles and supple tagliatelle and spaghetti. This recipe produces fresh noodles that are light and airy, but rich in flavor.

Fresh Egg Pasta: makes about 1 1/4 lbs pasta
2.5 cups all purpose flour, plus extra as needed
1/2 t. fine sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons olive oil
Optional: 4 T. fresh, finely chopped basil, parsley or spinach

In a food processor, add 2.5 cups of the flour and sea salt. Pulse to incorporate. Crack the eggs into a measuring cup to prevent shells from getting into your flour. Add the oil to the eggs, then pour this into the food processor. Process until the flour is evenly moistened and becomes crumb-like in texture. Add extra flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky, processing between additions. The dough should form a ball around the blade of the processor. When you pinch it between two fingers it should not stick, but should not be dry.

Next, flour a clean work surface and set the dough down in the center of it. Knead the dough by pushing the dough away from you with the base of your palms, then folding it back on top of itself. Rotate the dough and repeat this motion. Knead for about 10 minutes, then shape the dough into a ball and allow it to rest for 15 minutes underneath a bowl. Do not allow it to rest longer than 15 minutes or it will dry out.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces, removing one and covering the rest once more. Set the pasta roller attachment set to the widest setting. Flatten your piece of dough and dust it with flour. Feed it through the rollers. Fold it into thirds like a piece of paper, dust with more flour, then feed it through the roller again. Repeat this twice. Start again with the next piece of dough, continuing with this same process until you have even sheets of pasta. Narrow the rollers to a thinner notch and repeat the process again. Continue with this process until you have reached the desired thinness.  The second to thinnest notch can be used for spaghetti or linguine. If desired, roll the pasta out to the thinnest notch to make tagliatelle or lasagna noodles.

For noodles, either add the appropriate attachment and cut the noodles, or cut them by hand with a knife.
Cook the fresh noodles in boiling salted water for approximately 5-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the noodle.

October 15, 2011

Spiced Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

It's warm, smothery, and perfect for a rainy night.

This braised beef and sweet potato stew tastes like Fall and hints at winter. I made this stew on a weekday, a Wednesday night to be exact. I was craving warmth and meat. I'd like to think this stew is kind of perfect for a Sunday night, though. Maybe passed around by a family or group of friends around a big oval table and eaten from big, shallow bowls.

It was just M and me, and our pot of beef stew. I've never made a beef stew before but my cash was a little tight and when I went to the butcher craving beef, I was met with all sorts of steep prices. The least expensive were these hunks of vibrantly red beef cubes. It would have to do. I adapted this recipe from Epicurious, and added lots of soft, sugary sweet potatoes and a bit more spice. Try adding chickpeas, or serving over couscous or egg noodles. This is an easy dish that has made me a stew convert.

When he tasted his first bite, M exclaimed, "you should call this 'Not your Mother's Beef Stew!" I imagine that this declaration was the result of this stew's unique, complex flavors... I still have no idea what M meant, but he was too busy eating to allow me get a decent explanation. Truly, the mark of a great dish.

Spiced Beef and Sweet Potato Stew (makes about 6 servings)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs cubed beef (chuck roast)
2 cups chopped Spanish onion
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1.2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup sweet white wine
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 cups beef broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Salt to taste.
Rice to serve.

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper. Add the beef to the pot and saute about 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove with slotted spoon, and add onions and sweet potato to pot. Saute until onions are browned, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in garlic and all of the spices. Cook 1 minute, then pour in both wines, bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes until it is reduced to a glaze. Pour in the vinegar, broth, and diced tomatoes. Stir to incorporate. Then add the beef and raisins and apricots. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Uncover and cook for another 45 minutes (1.5 hours total). Season with salt. Serve over rice.

October 13, 2011

Chewy Pumpkin Peanut-Butter Oatmeal Rounds

Do you remember these?

These fruit and nut energy rounds were awesome. But for some reason I never made them again after that one time. I guess I was off to fry other fish and tackle new adventures in the kitchen. I was fickle in those days.

Last week I was contemplating the issue of my new job... You see, this new job is not a "make oatmeal at your desk and enjoy it while you surf email" job. I've had those jobs before. I remember what that felt/tasted like. It's nice, so if you have one of those jobs, congratulations and please do enjoy it. My new job is more like "walk in door, try to make it to office before crisis arises (avoid eye contact with patients). Crisis averted. Sit down in chair, touch computer mouse. Crisis finds way to office and walks in.  There goes breakfast."

Enter back in these energy rounds. I knew I needed something that can keep me going, something high in protein and nutrients and low in added sugar or fat. It's also Fall, which means pumpkins, and pumpkins are loaded with nutrients and flavor. My brain started crafting a new energy round. I tweaked the original energy round recipe to further reduce the sugar and bump up the nutrients. 

Yes, they are that orange! Isn't it fun and festive? I pop one in a baggie in the morning before I head out the door. A few bites later I'm fueled up and ready to go. Best yet, this little nuggets are really keeping me full. And happy. Two of my favorite flavors (pumpkin and peanut butter) are rolled into the same place. 

So move aside Cliff and Luna..... there's a new, fresher bar (or round) in the office. It's chewy, nutty, and wholesome... I might even  venture far enough to say I think this breakfast is making me a better therapist.  

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Oatmeal Rounds (makes about 12-14 rounds)
1 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup salted, roasted peanuts
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (not natural)
1 cup packed canned pumpkin
1 T flax seeds
1 T. blackstrap or regular molasses
1.5 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. cinnamon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. 
Pour boiling water over the dried fruit and allow them to sit. The fruit will plump up and re-hydrate. 
In the food processor, pulse the oats, walnuts, peanuts, honey, peanut butter, pumpkin, flax seeds, spices, and lemon zest until coarsely chopped. Drain the dried fruit from the water. Add the dried fruit and coconut flakes to the food processor and pulse a few times. Pour the mixture into a bowl and mix well. 

Using wet hands, roll balls of the dough into about 1 to 1.5 inch rounds, then flatten gently with your palm to form a round that is about 1/2 to 3/5 inch thick. Continue until all the dough is used. Bake in the oven until the sides are just golden, about 15-20 minutes. Check often and make sure not to burn the bottoms. Eat one hot out of the oven for fun, then cool the rest and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. 


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