Classics, Dinner, Italian, Meat, Savory

Braciole

00000img_00000_burst20200620173510666_cover

This is my take on a classic Italian Braciole or beef-roll ups.  This is an easy and hearty dish that looks extremely elegant.  You can make the filling several days ahead and if you use store-bought marinara sauce, this meal comes together in about a half an hour, elevating any boring weeknight to date night!  Here is how I made this dish.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200620173515721_cover

Ingredients:

For the roll-up:

2 pieces of flank-steak, pounded thin (the package might say “braciole)

A double batch of Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach

1 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

Salt and cracked black pepper to season the meat, about a 1tsp of each.

1 Tbsp of olive oil

Kitchen string cut into 6-8 pieces, long enough to wrap around and tie the rolled meat

For the sauce:

1 cup of marinara or tomato-basil sauce

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar

Method:

Cook the spinach and mushrooms (you can find the recipe here).  You will need to double the recipe so that you have enough filling.  The filling can be made several days in advance.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Mix the bread crumb with spinach and mushroom filling.

img_20200620_165447

img_20200620_165459

Divide the filling on to the two pieces of flank steak and spread it on to the meat.  Press the filling down, so that it sticks to the meat–it will stay in place when you go to roll it.

img_20200620_165808

Starting from the short end, roll the steak up like a jelly-roll, tightly; tucking in any filling that may fall out.

img_20200620_170106img_20200620_170112

Using the pre-cut kitchen twine ( I like to cut it ahead of time), tie up the rolls tightly.

Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet and once it is hot, add the beef roll-ups.  I like to add some additional cracked black pepper at this step, makes for a really nice crust!

img_20200620_171827

Sear on high heat, about 2-3 minutes per side, making sure you get the entire surface of the roll browned–not just top and bottom.  After you get the initial sear, you may lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, rolling the beef to a different surface ever 2 minutes.  The entire process will take about 15- 20 minutes.  It might take longer if your rolls are larger.

img_20200620_172016img_20200620_172454img_20200620_172651

let the beef rolls rest for at least 5 minutes before you cutting the string and slicing the meat.

While the beef is searing, heat all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepot.  You are looking to warm up the sauce so that all the ingredients get a chance to blend in and impart their flavor.  You keep the sauce on a low simmer the entire time the beef is cooking.

img_20200620_170805

To plate dinner, spoon sauce on a plate and arrange two slices of the braciole/beef-roll up.  Pour yourself a glass of red wine and dinner is served!

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200620173525087_cover

 

 

Fish & Seafood, Savory

Blackened Tilapia with Crispy Okra

img_20200616_180656

When I saw fresh okra at the grocery store I knew I had to make this.  And what goes well with okra? Something “blackened” of course!!!  If you are not a fan of fish, you can rub the spices on the chicken and bake/grill chicken.  You could also pair this with baked chicken or fried chicken.  I personally love blackened fish, it reminds of my childhood, as does okra.  So, this meal is truly comfort food for me.

img_20200616_180701-1

Ingredients:

For the Okra:

2 cups chopped okra (medium-rounds)

3 Tbsp of cornmeal

3Tbsp of rice flour

1 tsp of salt

1tsp of chipotle chili (or any kind of chili powder)

1/2 tsp of cumin

5 Tbsp of oil

3 Tbsp of water

1 egg

For the blackened spice rub:

1tsp of each of the following

  • salt
  • black pepper
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • smoked paprika
  • garlic powder

For the fish:

1 Tbsp of oil

3-4 tilapia fillets

Method–For the Okra.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Chop okra and add to bowl.  MIx with cornmeal, rice flour, and spices.

img_20200616_171153img_20200616_171525

In a separate bowl, mix 3 Tbsp of oil, water, and 1 egg.  Beat thoroughly to mix and add the okra

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet or a cast-iron skillet and drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil.

img_20200616_172029

Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring the mixture every 10 minutes.

img_20200616_180430

img_20200616_180643

Method–For the Tilapia.

Mix the blackening spices with 1 Tbsp oil to create a paste.

img_20200616_172857

Pat dry the fish fillets and massage the spice paste on to the fillet.

img_20200616_173328

Arrange fish on a lined baking sheet, if you are using aluminum foil, you lightly spray the foil to prevent the fish from sticking.

Bake the fish for 20 minutes till flakey,

Serve with fish with okra and corn and enjoy!

img_20200616_180626

 

 

Meat, Moroccan, Savory

Pork Chops with Harissa

00000portrait_00000_burst20200611180436287

The past few days have been hot and humid.  It is too oppressive to turn on the oven and the sudden, thunderous, downpour (providing no relief by the way) makes grilling difficult. Under these circumstances,  I try to make quick, skillet dinners.  I also recently bought a jar of harissa paste, so I decided to make the best of the situation and make this dish.  It was a little experimental but turned out delicious.  If you are not a fan of pork or have dietary restrictions, the sauce will work really well with chicken, shrimp, or mixed vegetables.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200611180502321_cover

Ingredients:

3, center-cut, boneless pork chops

1/8 cup flour

1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, coriander, and smoked paprika

1 medium onion, sliced

1/2 tsp of minced garlic

1 tsp of tomato paste

3 tsp of harissa paste (not sauce)

1 tsp of chicken broth concentrate + 1 cup of water OR 1 cup of chicken broth

1/2 tsp of dried parsley

2 Tbsp of olive oil

Additional salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a skillet.  While the oil warms up, mix flour with flour, salt, pepper, coriander, and smoked paprika in a bowl.

img_20200611_173405

Dredge, pork chops in the flour-spice mixture, and add to the hot oil.

img_20200611_173700

Fry the pork chops, about 2-3 minutes per side, till folder brown.  Set aside.

img_20200611_173952

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil in the same pan.  Coat the sliced onions in the remaining flour mixture and add to the pan.  Sautee on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes till they soften.

Once the onions start to soften, add the garlic, tomato paste and harissa paste.  Continue to saute for another 3-5 minutes.

img_20200611_174605

Add chicken stock concentrate and water, dried parsley, and reduce the temperature to medium-low.  Simmer the sauce for 3-5 minutes.

img_20200611_174914

Return the pork chops to the pan.  Continue to simmer till the sauce thickens. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and pepper as needed.  If the sauce taste too tart, you can add a pinch of sugar to cut through the acid.  This will depend on the harissa paste and tomato paste brand.

img_20200611_175341

Plate the pork chops with healthy dollops of the harissa sauce.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200611180532890_cover00000portrait_00000_burst2020061118045735000100dportrait_00100_burst20200611180450780_cover

 

Savory, Sides

Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200607174827849_COVER

Now that it is grilling season, I am spending most of the time making sides and salads to go with whatever protein is being cooked on the grill.  This is a quick and hearty side dish that will pair really well with a nice steak.  This side dish is good at any time of year so consider it for your holiday meals as well!

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200607174812732_COVER

Ingredients:

4 oz of mixed mushrooms (scale up for a larger portion)

1 cup of fresh baby spinach leaves

2 Tbsp of olive oil

1 medium shallot, sliced

1/4 tsp of minced garlic

2 tsp of soy sauce

1 tsp of balsamic vinegar

a pinch of nutmeg

cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Heat oil in a large skillet and add shallots and mushrooms.  Sautee on medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes till the vegetables start to soften.

IMG_20200607_171952

IMG_20200607_172435

Add the minced garlic, nutmeg, and spinach.  Continue to sautee as the spinach wilts.

Finish the dish with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.  Add liquid and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom on the skillet.  Continue to saute till all the liquid evaporates, about 1-2 minutes.

Taste the veggies and add additional salt the (sodium levels will depend on the type of soy sauce you use) and cracked black pepper.  I add a lot of pepper because that is the way we like it.

Serve piping hot with a juicy steak!

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200607174746146_COVER

Cake, Sweet

Cardamom Almond Cake

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524182900351_COVER

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices.  So when I saw this recipe, I had to make.  What makes it even more special is that I used duck eggs in this recipe, to yield a richer, more moist cake.  The original recipe was written for a 9-inch cake, but I wanted to make a smaller portion–after all, it is just the two of us in this lockdown. The cake came out delicious and the duck eggs give it a wonderfully rich texture and a beautiful golden yellow color.  The cardamom taste is floral and prominent but softened by the nuttiness of the almond flour  You can, of course, make this with regular eggs, I have recommendations below:

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 duck eggs (2 extra-large chicken eggs or three regular-sized eggs)

1 tsp of almond extract

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp of cardamom

2 and 1/4 cups of almond flour

2 Tbsp of apricot jam (optional for glazing the cake)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease and flour on 6-inch cake pan.

Mix almond flour, sugar, and cardamom in a bowl.

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524140949568_COVER

In a separate bowl (or measuring cup) which together with the almond extract, oil, and eggs.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524141153315_COVER

Mix wet and dry ingredients, folding them together to create a smooth batter.

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200524141434092_COVER

IMG_20200524_142053

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 mins (depending on your oven temperature) till a tooth-pick comes out clean.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524145617848_COVER

Cool the cake on a wire rack and during the cooling process, spread the apricot jam (warmed–so that it spreads easily) on top of the cake to create a lovely glaze.

Serve at room temperature, we had it with fresh berries, but it is wonderful just as it is.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524182952809_COVER00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524183037626_COVER

Poultry, Quick Dinner, Savory

Tequila Lime Chicken

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200525190758078_COVER

It is warm in New England, which means, it is finally grilling season!  Thank god for that because boring chicken breast tastes best when grilled.  Here is a fun marinade for chicken tenders which I adapted (a.k.a made a smaller batch) from Ina Garten’s recipe.  As long as you have all the ingredients, it is super easy!

Ingredients:

8-10, boneless, skinless chicken tenders

1/4 cup tequila

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 Tbsp of chili powder

1/2 Tbsp of minced garlic

1 jalapeno, diced (remove the seeds if you don’t want it to be spicy)

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of black pepper

Method:

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524144038730_COVER

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl or large measuring cup.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200524145157792_COVER

Pour the marinade over the chicken in a zip-top plastic bag and marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

Bring the chicken to room temperature and grill till cooked through.

I like to serve this particular chicken with a salad/salsa made with black beans, corn, avocado, tomatoes, bell peppers, and scallions.  I like to dress this salad/salsa with a little bit of lime juice (prevents the avocados from browning), salt, and pepper.

IMG_20200525_181218

Serve the chicken hot and the salad at room temperature.  I would recommend eating this meal outside with a cold margarita!!

 

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200525190644231_COVER00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200525190728841_COVER

 

Savory, Sides

Foolproof Popovers

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200511173753667_cover

Popovers would be best described as the New England cousin of the English Yorkshire pudding.  My first introduction to popovers was in college when we would go to a local restaurant called Judie’s.  I have fond memories of Judie’s popovers with apple butter.  Being a New England native, my husband too loves popovers.  So much so, that we had them at our wedding.  It was important to have a recipe for popovers and I had stumbled across this many years ago while watching FoodNetwork.  Ever since then, I have been following the recipe to the “t” and it is truly foolproof!  You can find the recipe here

 

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons melted butter, divided

2 eggs

1 cup milk, warmed for 30 seconds in the microwave (should be lukewarm to warm)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt ( I add some black pepper too)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F

Using a pastry brush, coat 6 muffin cups (I like the muffin tins that are made for extra-large muffins) with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and put the tin in the oven for 5 minutes.  I like to cut up 1 tbsp of butter and divide it into the cups, melt them in the oven while it is pre-heating.  Then I use a brush to coat the cups with the melted butter.

 

Meanwhile, mix the eggs in a blender until light yellow.

 

Add the warmed milk and blend. Add the flour, salt, and remaining melted butter, and blend until smooth.

 

Pour the batter into the warmed muffin tin.  Try to divide the batter evenly amongst each tin to yield popovers that are the same size.

img_20200511_165840

img_20200511_165934

Return it to the oven to bake until golden, about 35 minutes.  It is critical to NOT OPEN THE OVEN during the baking process

Remove from the oven and serve warm.

img_20200511_173521img_20200511_17354600100dportrait_00100_burst20200511173601246_cover00100dportrait_00100_burst20200511173617389_cover

Poultry, Savory

Chicken Roulade

00000img_00000_burst20200508180055039_cover

The humble bird gets an elegant makeover.  This is a showstopper but does require a bit of effort and planning.  I made it extra hard on myself as I did not have a single, large piece of chicken breast to work with.  Usually, you can take a large piece of breast meat, cut it open like a book, pound and thin, and then fill and roll like a jelly roll.  I only had thin cutlets (these cuts are really popular because my husband loves cutlets and Jägerschnitzel), which made the process a bit more challenging.  As for the filling, this is where you can get creative.  I use roasted red peppers and prosciutto, I have read recipes with spinach, cheese, and tomatoes.  Anyway, this is a labor of love, but certainly, worth it if, you like me, are bored with eating chicken!

00000img_00000_burst20200508175721214_cover

Ingredients:

For the Roulade:

5-6 thin chicken cutlets OR 1 large chicken breast, cut open like a book and pounded thin

1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

5 slices of prosciutto

2-3 roasted red peppers from a jar, shredded (you can use your fingers for this, they are usually really soft)

For dredging and frying:

1/8 cup flour

1/4 tsp of salt, black pepper and poultry seasoning (1/4 tsp of each)

1 Tbsp of olive oil

For the pan sauce:

1 medium shallot, sliced

1/2 Tbsp of olive oil

1/2 cup chicken stock, plus an additional 1/4 cup if you need to cook the chicken longer

4 Tbsp of white wine

1/2 tsp of dried parsley ( use fresh if you can, I did not have any)

Method:

Shingle the thin chicken cutlets to form a sort of continuous sheet of chicken.  You will want to do this over a plastic food cutting board.

img_20200508_105508

Cover the “sheet” of chicken with a large piece of plastic wrap and then flip the cutting board.  img_20200508_110424img_20200508_110437img_20200508_110525This will ensure that the plastic wrap is on the very bottom and the chicken on top.  Lift the cutting board to start the filling process.

Season the chicken sheet with salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.

img_20200508_111146

Arrange the prosciutto slices to cover the entire sheet of chicken.

img_20200508_111341

Using your fingers, shred the roasted red pepper on top of the prosciutto.

img_20200508_111626

Now, very carefully, ensuring that you get all the pieces of chicken to move in unison, roll up the chicken tightly like a jelly-roll.

Wrap the rolled-up chicken tightly, with the plastic wrap underneath.

img_20200508_111949

Twist the free ends of the plastic (two ends of the chicken roll) tightly.  The tighter you twist the more cylindrical the roulade will get.

Chill the roulade for 3-4 hours.  Longer the better.

When you are ready to cook the roulade, place the roulade in a shallow skillet (plastic-wrap and all) and fill with some water and bring it to a simmer.  Continue to simmer the roulade till the chicken turns from pink to white.  Remove from the skillet and place on a cutting board.  Remove the plastic wrap and cool the roulade.

On a plate, mix all the ingredients fro dredging.  Roll to coat the cooled roulade.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and add the roulade and all the excess flour into the pan– you will need the excess flour to make the sauce.

Brown the roulade on all sides (2-3 minutes per side).  Remove from the pan and set aside.

img_20200508_172325

Add the sliced shallot and 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil to the same pan and sautee the shallots till golden.

Add the wine and chicken stock to the pan and turn the heat to medium-low and simmer till the stock reduces.

img_20200508_173744

In the meantime, slice the roulade with a serrated knife.  Depending on the thickness of the roulade, the chicken may or may not be cooked all the way through.  I notice that my roulade was not cooked all the way, so I returned the slices to the pan with the sauce and added an additional 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

Cook the slices till cooked through and the sauce is reduced.  You may have to remove the slices out of the skillet and continue to reduce the sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the roulade and serve with your choice of sides.  I made green beans and rice pilaf.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200508175737373_cover00100dportrait_00100_burst20200508175713767_cover00000img_00000_burst20200508175657999_cover

 

Breakfast, Sweet

Oatmeal Breakfast Loaf with blueberries

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200509145928804_cover

As you all know by now, I always try to come up with new ways to “package” my oatmeal in the morning.  You can also tell that blueberries are really popular in my house (refer to Blueberry-Almond Oatmeal MuffinsGluten-free Blueberry Corn Muffins).  Here is my latest experiment–it consists of oatmeal and cornmeal and it low in sugar and it gluten-free.

Ingredients:

2 cups oatmeal

1 cup stone-ground, yellow cornmeal

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/8 cup of sugar + 1 Tbsp for sprinkling

2 eggs

1 cup almond milk

8 oz plain greek yogurt

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 cup blueberries

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix yogurt, eggs, almond milk in a large measuring cup (or bowl)

In a separate bowl, mix oats, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, lemon zest, and sugar.

img_20200509_134010

Slowly fold in the wet and the dry ingredients.  Add the lemon juice and mix in thoroughly.  I like to mix the lemon juice at the end because I don’t want the milk or yogurt to curdle when I mix all the wet ingredients together.

The last step is to fold in the blueberries.

In the greased loaf pan, pour in the batter and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining 1Tbsp of sugar over the top.  This will create a golden, sugary top which is really nice for an otherwise “not-so-sweet” quick bread.

img_20200509_134924

Bake for 25 mins.  After that, you can turn on the broiler to High for 2-3 minutes to encourage the sugar to brown and the blueberries to burst!

img_20200509_141854

Let the loaf cool before using a serrated knife to slice the loaf.

Serve warm!

00000img_00000_burst20200509150201832_cover

 

 

Appetizers, Savory, Sides

Zucchini Fritters

 

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200506182645867_cover

In India, on a raw, rainy night, you will often find family members gathered over hot cups of tea and plate of piping hot fried fritters.  These fritters are usually vegetarian, like potato, onion, and eggplant (all separate–not mixed together).  Yesterday, a beautiful sunny spring day turned into a gloomy, rainy evening–which led me to crave fried food.  I could have pulled out some samosas, but I have zucchini in the fridge that needed to be used.  Also, earlier in the day, I came across this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, so it must have been a combination of all these different sensory inputs (haha, can you tell I am a biologist?) that led to this recipe.

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchinis, grated and drained

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 small onion, minced

1 egg

2 Tbsp of flour

1 Tbsp of rice flour

1/2 tsp of salt

A dash of black pepper

1 tsp of olive oil for the batter plus more for frying

Method:

Grate and or chop finely the zucchini.  If you have a food processor, you can grate it.  I have a handheld grater which almost pulverizes the zucchini.  So, for some texture I grated one and chopped the other–the different textures give the fritters some body.

img_20200506_155741

Place the zucchini on a paper towel or dishcloth and let it drain for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

img_20200506_160734

Squeeze out all the water and add the zucchini to a mixing bowl.

img_20200506_175448

Add egg, flours, salt, pepper, jalapenos, and oil to the zucchini and mix thoroughly.

Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a skillet.  Using a tablespoon, gently dollop the batter into the hot oil.  Using the back of the spoon, flatten out the dollops to form a pancake shape.

Fry on medium-high to high heat for 2-3 minutes or till golden brown.  Then flip the fritters and cook the other side.

img_20200506_181640

Blot the fritters on a paper towel and serve piping hot!  This makes a great evening snack or a hearty side dish for a simple chicken dinner.

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200506182700332_cover200000img_00000_burst20200506182711169_cover