Sunday, September 28, 2008

Steak au Poivre with Pasta Pesto and Goat Cheese-Walnut Salad - 9/25/08

This menu pretty much created itself after my mom sent me a recipe for a pesto made with arugula and walnuts instead of basil and pine nuts. Arugula has a nice peppery flavor to it, so what better to pair with it than steak au poivre and a salad with walnuts.

Steak au Poivre with Pasta Pesto

Cook up the pasta according to package directions. I used creste di gallo (rooster crowns - they look like large macaroni with some fringes on them) because I liked the multiple colors they come in. For the pesto, combine one garlic clove, salt, half a cup of walnuts (toasted for extra credit), 2 cups arugula, half a cup of basil, 2 tablespoons of parmigiano, and one tablespoon of lemon juice in a food processor. While processing, stream in about one third cup of olive oil until the pesto is smooth. Adjust the flavor with salt and pepper as desired. Toss the pesto over the pasta.

For the steak, salt both sides of the meat and cover both sides with cracked peppercorns. If you want a lighter pepper flavor (or if you start sneezing uncontrollably), you can use ground pepper, just make sure you use a good amount of it. The pepper is the only real seasoning for the steak, so use as much as you can tolerate. You may be concerned that the pepper will be overpowering, but the cooking process dulls the flavors a bit so you probably won't have a problem. Anyways, cook the steak in a pan to desired doneness. If you really want, you can add a little brandy or red wine to deglaze the pan, then add a little heavy cream and cook until thickened. Be careful with the cream, though, because if you cook it too long past the thickened stage, the sauce will break and become more watery. This sauce is not totally necessary to enjoy the dish, though, as the pesto makes a nice accompaniment.

Goat Cheese-Walnut Salad

For a nice side salad, start with a base of fresh spinach and arugula, then add some toasted walnuts and crumbled goat cheese. For the dressing, whisk together some walnut oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and Dijon mustard. Pour a smattering if this dressing on top of the salad and toss to mix.

Chicken Tangine with Couscous - 9/22/08

This past week started off with a Moroccan/Middle Eastern dish, chicken tangine:

Chicken Tangine

I made this with 3 bone-in chicken breasts, but a full chicken would work well. Just make sure you piece the chicken and adjust the cooking time for the individual parts. Salt and pepper the chicken and cook it in a heavy skillet, skin-side down, until browned nicely. Remove the chicken from the skillet and start cooking some chopped shallots in butter in a large pot until soft. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric (careful, it will get under your fingernails and turn them orange), and paprika. Add the chicken to the pot with some saffron and salt, turning the chicken to make sure the chicken is evenly coated. Add about a cup of water and simmer for a half hour. Turn the chicken and add some orange marmalade, cinnamon stick, thyme, cilantro, and chopped apricots. Simmer this, covered, for about 10 minutes, then uncovered for about 10 additional minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

In a small pan, heat some oil in a skillet, then stir in pine nuts, turmeric and paprika. Cook until browned and remove from pan. Also, at this point, I made some couscous according to the package directions (it only takes 5 minutes once the water is boiling). Transfer the chicken to a platter and, if the sauce is not thick, reduce it down. Discard the herb sprigs and cinnamon stick. Stir in chopped cilantro, spoon sauce over chicken, and sprinkle pine nuts over top. One thing I love about this type of cuisine is the balance of sweet and savory, with the nice cinnamon kick.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shrimp Cakes - 9/10/08

When planning my meals for the week, I was struck by inspiration - making crab cakes with shrimp instead. Here are the results:

Shrimp Cakes

I bought a bag of frozen, cooked, deveined, detailed shrimp and let them thaw in the fridge. I cut them in 3-4 pieces each, then added salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, freshly chopped dill, chopped green onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and sour cream (the last two ingredients in equal proportions). I formed these into patties and put them in a hot, oiled pan. After letting them brown nicely, I turned them and cooked them on the other side. While this all cooked, I prepared a homemade cocktail sauce from some ketchup, fresh horseradish and Worcestershire sauce. Lastly, I arranged the cakes on a plate with some sauce and dill for garnish. Though I always have a problem with them breaking apart, they were delicious all the same.

Linguine with Gremolata - 09/09/08

Linguine with Gremolata

School is making me lazy about updating the blog. That ends today. The first update is linguine with gremolata. I cooked some spinach linguine (for the green color). On the side in a pan I cooked shallots (light onion flavor), garlic, zucchini, and snow peas until they are crisp-tender. Add spinach and fresh basil at the end and cook until they are wilted. After draining the pasta, I transferred all of these vegetables to the pasta. In the skillet, I turned up the heat to medium high and placed some sliced chicken breast in it. As it cooked, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and freshly grated parmigiano. Using high heat sealed in the juices and flavor in the chicken (as long as I did not overcook it). I dished up the pasta-vegetable mixture and topped it with the chicken. Lastly, I prepared the gremolata: chopped parsley, lemon zest, capers, and olive oil. This was placed on top to add a burst of bright flavor to the dish. I also added some more parmigiano on top because I love me some cheese. I liked the freshness and contrasts in this meal and it made me very happy after a long day of research.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Chicken & Sausage Cacciatore - 8/30/08

Chicken & Sausage Cacciatore

The latest creation is a different version of chicken cacciatore (more properly, pollo alla cacciatore or hunter's chicken). Usually, this dish is made with peppers, but this version is more focused on the mushrooms and tomatoes. The sausage adds some extra flavors in addition to the fresh herbs and spices. To start, you season 4 chicken thighs with salt and pepper. You then brown the chicken and sausages on both sides and remove them from the pan. Next, saute some mushrooms until they are brown and remove them from the pan as well. Add grape tomatoes, red wine, garlic, and rosemary to the pan and cook until the tomatoes soften. Using a potato masher, crush some of the tomatoes to add their juices to the sauce. At this point, return the chicken, sausages and mushrooms to the pan and cook, turning the meats occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. Just before serving, stir in some fresh basil to the sauce. I served this with a side of canned green beans improved with some garlic salt and rosemary, though I omitted it from the picture since it does not look that appetizing (tastes good though).