Monthly Archives: May 2012

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Grilled Eggplant Panini with Roasted Tomatoes and Olive Tapenade

Eggplant has become a recent favorite food over the last 2 years. Before that I just never gave it a second thought. It’s an under rated vegetable and that might be due to the trickiness of cooking it. There’s acid in eggplant so it’s good to press some of the juice out to remove the bitterness. Grilling eggplant is one of the best ways to cook it just because it chars the eggplant and gives it a smokier flavor. I chose some roasted tomato slices to compliment the eggplant along with fresh mozzarella and olive tapenade.  The roasted tomatoes were especially good because they are in between fresh and sun-dried.  The tomato is concentrated like a sun-dried tomato but it remains just juicy enough to eat on a sandwich. It was so good! I really liked all the flavors together and I will definitely make this again.

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Olive and Caper Tapenade

Tapenade is a ground mixture of olives, capers, and garlic. The ingredients are mixed together with olive oil until they form a paste. I thought tapenade was an Italian food but it turns out it comes from southern France. Sometimes anchovy paste and herbs are added to it as well depending on the region. Usually it’s served on bread or eaten as a condiment but I thought it would be great on a sandwich. I really liked the flavors of the tapenade and it was even better on the Grilled Eggplant Panini.

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Chickpea and Coconut Curry Dosas

When I first heard about these thin little pancakes stuffed with a curry filling I was pretty intrigued. I had never made anything like these pancakes before and they really are more like crepes. It took a couple tries (and throwaways) to perfect the thin pancake. The cake uses spelt flour which is kind of a unique grain so it’s harder to find at grocery stores. If you have a non-stick pan definitely use it on these for easier flipping. The curry filling was the easiest part to make and the flavors were great–a little spicy and a little sweet. Since the curry filling is enough for 4 meals, I made 1 batch of dosa batter each day.  You can’t go wrong with coconut curry and wrapped up in the thin pancakes made it all the better!

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Achiote Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos

Who knew butternut squash could be so versatile? As a kid, I remember only having it around Thanksgiving and the holidays. It turns out butternut squash is great on both pizza and tacos. The squash is rubbed with ground annatto/achiote seeds, cumin, oregano, and smoked paprika. Then it’s roasted in the oven until soft. For the toppings, I caramelized an onion with brown sugar and smoked paprika.  The tacos were sweet and spicy and so good! I added a tablespoon of the black bean salsa along with some queso fresco for garnish.

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Black Bean and Sweet Corn Salsa

There’s this great Mexican restaurant nearby that serves black bean salsa with corn chips before the main course. I have been wanting to recreate this salsa because it’s hard to stop eating it. The salsa is easy to throw together and has great flavor. It works nicely as a condiment for chips or in tacos, burritos, tostadas, etc. The spiciness can be dialed down by adding fewer jalapenos and cayenne or increased by adding serrano peppers which are quite a bit spicier. The corn provides an element of sweetness and the white and green onions a good amount of texture and crunch. I think the recreation of the restaurant’s salsa was a success because once again it was hard to put the bowl down and save room for dinner!

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Massaman Chicken Curry

Massaman curry is a Thai dish that is influenced by Indian spices. It can be made with beef, chicken or tofu but I settled on trying the chicken version. I had this dish once at a Thai restaurant in Chicago and I have been dreaming about making it at home for a while. This recipe turned out to be quite similar to the restaurant’s and I was really happy about that! Massaman curry is a stew made with coconut milk, potatoes and served with rice. I tried to make this as authentic as possible so I avoided substitutions the best I could. The spicy and sweet flavors of this curry perfectly blended together and the finished product was really tasty! Feel free to substitute the protein for tofu, beef or pork.

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Thai Red Curry Paste

One of the most important steps in making Thai dishes is preparing the chili paste. The paste is a concentrate of aromatic ingredients that provides a lot of flavor for the dish. There are many variations of chili pastes but this particular one is used in Massaman Curry. It could be used in a variety of dishes as well, not just for Massaman Curry. If you have a food processor making it would be easy, but without one it will take some time to prep.  You can find the paste in stores but it goes without saying that it won’t have the same amount of flavor and freshness that making it from scratch provides. It can be tough to find the authentic ingredients but if you live near or in a city there is likely a Thai or Asian market that can provide some of the harder to find ingredients.

My favorite part of making this was roasting it for a few minutes in a pan. By heating it up the flavors were released into the air and the whole kitchen smelled so good! It’s an important step since it intensifies the flavor of the paste as well. The result was a really versatile concentrate of flavors that can be used in a ton of different Thai foods. It should last for a week or two in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator.

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Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Pancetta and Balsamic Caramelized Onions

Butternut squash is a food that can be surprisingly versatile. So far I have enjoyed it in a variety of recipes but this pizza is by far one of the best. The squash is coated in olive oil, sage and rosemary and baked until soft. The onions sauteed in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar provide a nice balance of sweet and tart. Those flavors work really well with the squash and smoky pancetta.  As for the cheese, I used Mozzarella but I would guess that Fontina cheese would be fine too.  I also scooped some of the seeds out of the squash to roast in the oven which I used as a final topping. They taste just like pumpkin seeds and it was a really nice last minute addition on the pizza.  I wouldn’t use a lot of salt on this recipe as the pancetta is naturally on the salty side and roasting the seeds with salt provides enough flavor for the rest of the pizza.  The result was a great pizza with flavors that complimented each other really well.

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Rhubarb Crisp

For Mother’s Day I wanted to post my mom’s rhubarb crisp recipe I enjoyed every summer as a kid. In the backyard there was a big rhubarb plant and once the stalks were ripe she would cut some off and make rhubarb crisp! Her recipe is easy and not including the rhubarb you probably already have the ingredients at home. Oats, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon cover a layer of chopped rhubarb. Then it’s baked in the oven and the result is soft and melty on the bottom with crispy oats on the top. I topped the crisp with fresh whipped cream. Mom’s recipe is a winner!

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Moroccan Chicken Sandwich with Manchego Cheese and Preserved Lemons

After making Moroccan Chicken I had some leftovers that needed to be used.  As I have said in previous posts, I make that dish pretty often so I am always trying to come up with new, tasty recipes for the leftovers.  I decided to try the chicken on a grilled cheese sandwich along with Manchego cheese, caramelized onions and preserved lemons.  The preserved lemons and caramelized onions are sauteed together with honey so their flavors can mingle.  Manchego is a Spanish cheese that has the consistency of mozzarella and has a slightly tangy flavor.  I had it once at a mexican restaurant and I was looking forward to having it again.  It melts great so I thought it would work nicely on a grilled cheese sandwich.  This sandwich was simple to make and the flavors were so good together.

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