Thursday, January 28, 2010

Red Cabbage and Cashew Salad

The winter weather has me craving color, which was the only real inspiration for this salad. My goal was to create something pretty that--of course--tastes good.

In the recipe, I state to use light olive oil, but any oil of choice will do. When I made this, I actually used red chili oil to give it a bit of a kick (a little too much kick, according to the offspring....use at your own risk!). This works equally as well as a warm salad as it does chilled. Add some lentils or edamame, and it could even be a main dish.

Red Cabbage and Cashew Salad

2 tbs light olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
4 tbs honey
1 tbs lime juice
1/4 c fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
4 c red cabbage, shredded
3/4 c cashews

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute shallot until transparent. Add honey and stir until combined.

Remove from heat and whisk in lime juice, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Toss dressing with cabbage and cashews. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Penne with Alfredo Sauce and Balsamic Glazed Chicken

This dinner was made especially per my oldest daughter's request. She loves anything with Alfredo sauce....especially if chicken is involved. Rather than go with the usual grilled chicken strips over pasta and sauce, I decided to play with the flavors of the chicken. I wanted a sauce that would complement the Alfredo without overpowering it; this is the result.

This is just a basic recipe for alfredo sauce. You can add a variety of things to mix it up and cater to your particular craving. My favorite additions are listed below. Add your choice (or a combination) of the following after the cheese is incorporated:
  • 1 c broccoli florets. Some people like peas, and that's a possibility as well. Personally I think peas are disgusting.
  • 1/2-1 c of sauteed mushrooms. Make sure to thoroughly remove the gills of the mushrooms, as they will discolor the sauce if left in.
  • 1/2 cup lightly sauted yellow onion.
  • 1 c prepared salad shrimp.
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bacon.
When combining any of the above, plan to have a total of 1 cup of additions unless you want a very chunky sauce. Feel free to use your imagination....because alfredo isn't an authentic Italian sauce, you won't be offending anyone's cuisine by catering to your own whims!

Alternatively, you can use all parmesan cheese. I like the earthiness that the gruyere adds to the sauce, making it a more complex flavor.

Alfredo Sauce

1 stick (8 tbs) unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint heavy cream
1/2 c dry white wine or chicken stock
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, finely crushed
1 c shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 c shredded gruyere cheese
fresh cracked pepper and salt
chopped parsley and thin sliced red onion for garnish (if desired)

Melt 1 tbs butter over med heat and saute garlic for 1 minute. Decrease heat to med-low; add cream, wine, and red pepper flakes. Heat through while stirring frequently. Add remaining butter and stir gently until melted.

Add cheeses; stir until melted and combined. Salt and pepper to taste (you'll need more pepper than salt in this case, as the cheese adds quite a bit of saltiness).

Serve over your favorite pasta. Garnish with parsley and red onion (optional). Makes about 8 half-cup servings.

Grilled Balsamic Chicken

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbs light olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 c dry white wine
1 tbs sugar

Season both sides of chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat grill pan over med-high heat and add 1 tbs of the oil. Brown chicken about 2 minutes per side; remove from pan and set aside.

Lower heat to med and add remaining oil. Saute garlic for about 1 minute. Add vinegar and wine; stir to scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Bring vinegar to a boil, then simmer over med heat for 10 minutes.

Add chicken back to pan and cover. Simmer 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from pan and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing. Top with remaining glaze in pan. Serves 4.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Margherita Pizza

Ah, pizza.... I don't typically consider "pizza" to be recipe territory; however, this particular pizza was (1) specifically requested and (2) lead me down a little road of history.

I don't know about the rest of the world, but when I hear something pronounced \mär-gə-ˈrē-tə\ I think of tequila, limes, and salt. Maybe that says something about me personally, but that's not what I'm here to discuss. I've had (and made) Margherita Pizza many times before without giving much thought to the name, but this time I was curious.

In the small amount of research I did, I re-discovered that pizza originated in Greece. The tomato sauce didn't happen until quite a bit later. In Italy, pizza was simply a flat bread (what we would consider to be just the crust) that the peasants ate. It was cheap and filling....the poor main's dream food. Sometime in the late 1800s, Queen Margherita of Italy discovered these flat breads as she toured her kingdom and fell in love with them. Although she was frowned upon for dining on peasant fare, she did as a queen would and ignored the masses. She invited Chef Rafaelle Esposito to the palace to create a pizza just for her. He came up with the tomato, mozzarella, and basil toppings to represent the flag colors of Italy, and thus the Margherita Pizza was born.

So, I learned something new and got to cook. I hope you enjoy my variation presented here. Being the lazy individual that I am, I prefer to buy pre-packaged pizza crusts; feel free to use your favorite recipe if you so desire. I added the red onion and olives as an option for two reasons: First and foremost, they are delicious, and secondly as an homage to the Greek origins of the pizza.

Margherita Pizza

2 8" pizza crusts, prepared
3 tbs light olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbs parsley, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, minced (or 1 tsp dry oregano leaves)
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn
8 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/4 med red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c greek olives, pitted and coursely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper and salt

Preheat oven to 450F.

In a med sauce pan over med-high heat, heat 2 tablespoon oil. Sauté onion and parsley to golden; reduce heat to med and stir in garlic and oregano. Sauté for another minute.

Add tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pan (Important: Do not use pre-crushed tomatoes!). Stir in sugar and red pepper flakes. Boil, stirring, 15 minutes or until thick. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread half the sauce over each prepared crust. Divide basil, mozzarella, red onion (if desired), and olives (if desired) between the two pizzas. Sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper and a pinch of sea salt; drizzle with 1/2 tbs olive oil per pizza.

Bake 10-15 minutes, or until mozzarella is melted and slightly browning. Serves 4-6.