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Archive for the ‘Main Course’ Category

Beef Kabobs

I recently was able to rescue some of my pans from our storage unit, and lo and behold, my grill pan was included!  I missed this grilling-beauty over the summer months.  It is practically impossible to grill in New York on an outdoor grill, unless you illegally cart your BBQ grill to your local park.  Seeing as it is illegal, and that space in your apartment is precious (where would you store a grill in your apartment, come on!), I resort to a stove top grill pan.  I certainly put it to good use last night, and made beef kabobs.  Meat and veggies on a stick – Yum!

There are many different ways of spelling kabob – kebab, kabob, kabab – depending on where they are from.  Kabobs can be found in Turkish, Persian, Iraqi, Arabic, Greek, Indian, Asian, U.S., Armenian, and a whole bunch of other countries’ cuisines.  Each region, culture, and religion have their own way of making kabobs.  Usually kabobs include pieces of meat and some vegetables cooked on skewers.

In Los Angeles, we lived in an Armenian neighborhood, where the kabobs were dynamite!  I didn’t even attempt to make kabobs there because we could just walk (yes, we actually walked in LA) around the corner to find 3 different kabob houses that could blow mine out of the water.  I can’t remember the last time I made kabobs.  So, I decided to make an Armenian influenced beef kabob.

I marinated the beef and veggies (separately) for 4 hours before popping them on the skewers.  I chose acidic items to marinade the beef to break down the muscle fibers allowing for more absorbtion of the liquids, and thus yielding a juicier piece of meat.  Oh, and it was juicy & flavorful!  I served our kabobs over rice pilaf.  The butteriness of the pilaf with the succulent beef and the hearty vegetables was a winning combination.  There is something very medieval about eating meat off a stick!

Beef Kabobs
by Anne
Printable Recipe

1 lb beef, cubed
8 oz mushrooms, whole
1 red onion, cut into wedges, 1/4 of onion reserved for marinade
1 zucchini, cut into half-moons

marinade for the beef:
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS lemon juice
2 tsp dried oregano
2 TBS red wine vinegar
1/4  diced red onion

2 garlic cloves minced
marinade for the vegetables:
1 TBS olive oil
1 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp dried oregano
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove minced

Place the beef in a resealable plastic bag, or bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients for the beef.  Pour over the beef and stir to coat all pieces evenly.  Seal the bag, or cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place onion wedges (each layer released), zucchini, and mushrooms in a separate container.  Whisk together the marinade for the vegetables in a small bowl, and pour over the vegetables.  Stir to coat evenly.  Seal or cover, and refrigerate both the meat and vegetables for at least 4 hours or up to 8.
If you are using bamboo or wood skewers, make sure to soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour to prevent burning.

Thread on skewers, alternating the meat and vegetables.  Make sure to leave a little space between each piece to ensure even cooking.  Broil or grill the skewers until the beef is nearly cooked through – approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  Serve hot with your choice of side dish.

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Adam and I love breakfast for dinner nights.  It feels like a real treat to have pancakes, french toast, even eggs and hash-browns during the week.  Usually, I reserve making pancakes and eggs for the weekend, or we go out for brunch.  Brunch is definitely my favorite meal for dining-out.  I love stuffed french toast, pastries, coffee rolls, and anything sweet.  Adam usually goes for eggs or omelets with bacon and sausage.  This breakfast for dinner night was all about me, but I knew for sure, that Adam would love Pumpkin Pie French Toast.  Oh, and he did.  I had to make an extra half-batch!

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Pie French Toast on Closet Cooking several weeks ago, and was immediately drawn to it.  The idea of combining french toast with pumpkin pie flavoring was pure genius!  I wish that my grocery store carried “Texas Toast” or some sort of thick bread.  I think a thicker, heartier bread would have been spectacular, but my whole-wheat bread worked just fine as a delivery system for the pumpkin batter.  The Pumpkin Pie French Toast was velvety, smooth, and the vanilla extract made the spices pop.  It was like having dinner and dessert all-in-one.  I served the french toast with a generous pour of Vermont maple syrup!

Pumpkin Pie French Toast (from Closet Cooking)
Printable Recipe

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
8 slices of bread

Mix the eggs, milk, pumpkin purée, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and brown sugar in a bowl for easy dipping.  Dip the bread into the egg mixture on both sides and cook in a pan until lightly golden brown, about 2-3 minute per side.  Serve with maple syrup.


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Chili

We saw the first signs of snow yesterday.  It was actually raining with large snowflake globs mixed in.  Very cold, very wet.  I decided it was time for a warm bowl of chili.

Usually, I make a very simple chili with chicken, veggies, and chili powder, but this weekend I wanted to try something a little different – a spicy, smoky chili with beef and beer.  I always get a little nervous venturing away from how I normally do things.  I figure, why mess with a good thing.  How could I go wrong with a recipe that calls for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and beer!

We live in a very Polish neighborhood, hence the reason I chose a Polish beer.  We discovered Zywiec beer at a restaurant nearby where you can get an appetizer, Polish plate entrée, dessert and a beer all for around $12.  This price for the amount and quality of the food is highly unusual in New York.

The best thing about chili is that it is low maintenance and versatile.  You can pop all of the ingredients in a pot and in a couple of hours, it’s done.  Chili can be enjoyed on its own, on french fries, on hot dogs, on a baked potato, etc.  We like our chili with Jiffy cornbread, cheddar cheese, and a cold beer.

Football and a pot of chili on the stove.  What could be better?

Chili (adapted from The Eclectic Cook)
Printable Recipe

1 TBS olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 onions, diced
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS chili powder
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chopped chipotle chiles in adobo, plus a few TBS sauce
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 – 1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 lbs ground chuck
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle beer
2 cups beef broth or stock
2 (19 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt to taste

Sauté the onions, pepper, jalapeno, and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, chipotle peppers, oregano, coriander and cayenne pepper.  Cook for another few minutes, until the spices are fragrant.  Add the beef and cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and cook for a few more minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes, beer, beef broth or stock, brown sugar and the kidney beans.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer partly uncovered until chili has thickened, 1½ to 2 hours.  Taste for salt and adjust other spices as needed.  You may want to add a few TBS of adobo sauce.  Serve with grated cheese and cornbread, if desired.

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I have a lot to be thankful for this year.  I have an amazing, supportive family; understanding and caring friends; and a wonderful fiancé who has stood by my side during both good and difficult times.  We did have some family members pass-away this year – my grandmother (in her 90s), our family dog (18 years old), and the family cat (21 years old); and we had one new addition to the family, my parent’s new puppy, Molly.

This year, Adam and I spent a lovely Thanksgiving with my family in Vermont.  Though there were only four of us, my mother cooked for an army!  She ordered a 23 pound turkey, made five pies, and the usual side dishes.  Needless to say, she sent us home with leftovers.  Usually we just reheat the same foods until they are gone, but this year we just couldn’t get through the leftover turkey fast enough.  I started hunting for Thanksgiving leftover recipes, and was tempted by the soups, enchiladas, etc.  However, I’ve made a few soups and stews, quesadillas and burritos recently, so I thought I’d try something new – Turkey Tetrazzini.

I’m a huge fan of noodle casserole – I make a mean noodle kugel!  I love the crunchy topping with the creamy, cheesy, noodley goodness.  Some tetrazzini dishes are made with canned soup.  I wanted a bit more of a challenge, and chose a recipe from Simply Recipes, where the cream sauce is made from scratch.  I also liked the idea of adding Swiss cheese and peas to give depth to the traditional cream sauce and mushrooms.  I used Panko flakes instead of bread crumbs, though I think bread crumbs would have browned up a little better.  I added a little onion, I just think onions really help bring out the beauty of mushrooms.

My tetrazzini received rave reviews from Adam.  He was already done his first serving, before I finished the photo shoot!

Turkey Tetrazzini (adapted from Simply Recipes)
Printable Recipe

12 oz egg noodles, spaghetti, linguine or other pasta
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 4-5 cups)
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cups of milk
1 cup half & half
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine (or vermouth or sherry)
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked turkey
1 cup peas
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan (divided into 1/3 and 1/3 cups)
1/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
juice from 1 lemon
Salt and Pepper
Ground nutmeg (optional)
1/3 cup Panko flakes (or bread crumbs)
1/2 of an onion, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish. Start heating 2 to 3 quarts of water for the pasta.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt for each quart of water.  Cook the mushrooms and onions in 3 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat, stirring, until all of the liquid the mushrooms give off has evaporated, 5-10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of butter. Stir in the flour, and cook the mixture over low heat, stirring, for 3 minutes.

About now, put the pasta into the boiling water you’ve heated. Follow the package directions and cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking continue on with the recipe.

Into the saucepan with the butter and flour, slowly whisk in the milk, half &  half, broth, and the wine. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 to 8 minutes.

When the pasta is ready, drain it. In a large bowl combine the pasta, the sauce, the mushrooms, the turkey, and the peas. Stir in 1/3 cup of the Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of Swiss cheese. Stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a pinch of ground nutmeg if using, again to taste.  Transfer the mixture to a buttered 3-quart casserole.

In a small bowl combine well the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and the bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the tetrazzini, and dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, cut into bits.  Bake the Tetrazzini in the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbling and the top is golden.  Enjoy!

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This week is all about easy things to make for myself while Adam is out-of-town.  I usually don’t like to cook when Adam isn’t here to enjoy it with me because, ultimately, after he hears how wonderful my dinner was, I will have to make it again next week when he returns.  So, what’s easier than a quesadilla?  Not much.  Quesadilla = tortilla, cheese, tortilla, flip once during cooking, and enjoy with salsa.  Bam, dinner!  I decided to take the quesadilla to a whole new level.

I was inspired by a fellow food blogger, Kate in the Kitchen, who made Apple, Brie and Sweet Salty Praline Quesadilla, back in October.  This was actually the recipe that got me hooked on reading her blog.  Not only did it sound fantastic, her photos made me want to reach into the computer screen and grab it.  Kate’s quesadilla reminded me of Los Angeles.  Back in Los Angeles, my go-to sandwich at my favorite restaurant, The Alcove, was the Apple and Brie Panini.  The granny smith apples and brie are snuggled up to caramelized onions between two fabulous pieces of focaccia, and grilled to perfection.  Mouth-watering and seriously amazing!  So, I thought I’d give Kate’s recipe a try.  I bought the tortillas, brie, and pecans.  I thought I had apples at home, but alas, I did not.  So, instead of making a trip to the store, I improvised with cranberry sauce.  I hoped that it would mimic baked brie – the tortilla being the puff pastry.  It did.  The gooey, mild brie with the salty, sweet, nutty pecans and the tart and sweet cranberries definitely worked!  It was one sophisticated quesadilla.

Cranberry, Brie, and Praline Quesadilla
Printable Recipe

1-2 TBS cranberry sauce (whole berry, or regular)
Two slices of Brie cheese cut into sections
Sweet Salty Pralines (recipe below)
Two Flour tortillas

In a skillet, heat one tortilla until starting to crisp and brown. Remove to plate and add second tortilla to pan. While second tortilla heats, spread brie, cranberry sauce and scatter pralines on the tortilla on the plate.  Remove second tortilla, and return the tortilla with the toppings to the pan and heat until you can see the cheese melting.  Cover with second tortilla. Carefully flip tortilla once during heating. When cheese is melted, place on plate and cut into wedges. Serve hot.

Pralines (adapted from Kate)

1 cup pecans
1 TBS unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBS brown sugar

In a medium-sized skillet, melt butter over medium heat until foamy. Add pecans and stir to coat. Cook, stirring regularly for about 2-3 minutes, then sprinkle in brown sugar and salt.  Stir to coat pecans, breaking up any chunks that form. After a minute or two, carefully pour 2 TBS of water into the skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring regularly, until syrup thickens and pecans are fully coated.  Pour onto a plate and spread to cool, being careful not to touch the caramel.

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Spanish Tortilla

A few years ago, I began receiving Real Simple magazine as a gift.  I love this magazine almost as much as I love Martha Stewart’s Living magazine.  Earlier this year, there was an article about hosting a tapas party.  There were recipes for marinated mushrooms, sangria, some sort of crostini, and Tortilla Espanol.  Adam became very excited when I was telling him about this idea for a tapas dinner party.  He recalled a story of how he ate a very similar dish called, Spanish Tortilla, while he was in Spain and how much he loved it!  Adam exclaimed that he wanted to help make it.  I was completely baffled – this man rarely cooks, so when he is excited about cooking, I gladly let him take the lead!  However, I always chop the veggies!

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Since the Great Bagel Incident, I always handle the knives in the kitchen.  The Great Bagel Incident happened several years ago.  It innocently began with a shopping trip, that I did alone, to purchase a wonderful meal that I had planned for Adam.  The store was already very busy, and it was a frustrating trip.  I bought bagels for breakfast with cream cheese and smoked trout, like he likes it.  I was feeling a little overwhelmed with everything I had to do in the kitchen to get the ingredients in the slow-cooker, and Adam requested repeatedly for me to make breakfast.  I told him to help me and make his own bagel.  Well, sure enough, he cut his finger and I had to take him to the emergency room.  If Adam told this story, he would say that since I knew that the likelihood of him cutting himself was so high, I effectively cut him myself.  Luckily, and unfortunately, he was unable to get stitches.  The emergency room tech said that bagel cutting injuries are one of the most common injuries they treat.  We purchased a bagel guillotine, and Adam hasn’t wielded a knife since then.

We have made Spanish Tortilla many times this year.  It has become so routine that we don’t need to follow the recipe.  We have always used 2 more eggs than the recipe calls for, because it just didn’t seem to cover the potatoes.  It is a great dish, and is basically a frittata minus the cheese, and you don’t have to flip it.  The eggs and potato are reminiscent of breakfast, but paired with bread and white wine, very elegant.  The simplicity is amazing!

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Spanish Tortilla (adapted from Real Simple magazine)
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 russet potatoes (approx. 1 pound), peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 onion, thinly sliced
salt and black pepper
8 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350° F. Heat the oil in an ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onion, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes.
Pour the eggs over the potatoes; stir to distribute the ingredients. Transfer the skillet to oven and bake until brown around the edges and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature, sliced into wedges.

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Usually when I ask Adam what he wants to eat for dinner, he replies “I don’t know.  What do you want to make?”  It is wonderful that I am cooking for someone who will eat just about anything, but at the same time, the infinite possibilities sometimes paralyze me.  I often pull ideas from friends and family.  A few weeks ago, we attended a dinner party at our friends’ house.  The husband is a vegetarian, while his wife is not, though she has become quite skilled at cooking vegetarian meals for her family.  She made acorn squash as a side dish and spoke about it as if it was no big deal to make.  It was amazing!  I had seconds, and I know Adam did as well.  I knew I had to try my hand at this lovely squash!

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The acorn squash, in this case, was the center of the dish, while the pork was a bit of an afterthought.  I don’t mean to offend the pork, but I was so excited to experiment with this gorgeous “winter squash” with its dark green skin, and yellow-orange flesh.  I do not believe that I have ever cooked acorn squash, but I have roasted other squashes so I wasn’t too worried.  It is slightly sweet and I wanted to smother it with butter, sugar and spices, and that is just what I did.  I liked this recipe because I was able to use maple syrup from my home state, Vermont.

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Pork, in my mind, is a sweeter meat, and I usually pair it with other sweet things like carrots, cabbage, and definitely apples.  I thought the sweetness of the acorn squash would go really nicely with the pork.  I had pecans ready and waiting for another dish I planned to make, and imagined that pecans would be a great accompaniment to the squash.  I could just imagine the toasted nutty flavor of the pecans wafting around my kitchen and thought of pecan pie – it was sure to be a hit!  Ooh, and it was!  The nutty, light crunch of the crust was a nice contrast to the sweet, juicy meat, and the squash was like candy!  Adam had seconds.

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**Notes:  The original recipe calls for it to bake for 45 minutes covered and then for another 20 to 30 minutes uncovered.  I found this to be way too long.  I think baking it for 45 minutes covered, and then uncovered for 10 minutes would be sufficient.  The sugar in the pan ended up burning a little in spots.

Sugar and Spice Acorn Squash (adapted from Emeril Lagasse, foodnetwork.com)
Printable Recipe

2 acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds each)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Position rack in center of oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

On a cutting board, cut the squash in half lengthwise.  Be very careful the squash is hard and round!  Scrape the seeds and fibers from the squash with a spoon. Cut each squash half in 2 and place the quarters in a baking dish so that they fit in 1 layer, skin side down.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix until smooth with a rubber spatula. Divide the butter mixture among the squash quarters, about 1 tablespoon each. Butter mixture will melt inside the scooped-out squash wells. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake, covered, until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.

With a pastry brush or spoon, brush/spoon the melted butter from the squash wells evenly over the inside of each squash. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the squash is golden brown around the edges.

Carefully transfer the squash to serving plates and serve immediately.

Pecan-Crusted Pork Medallions (adapted from Closet Cooking)
Printable Recipe

1/2 cup pecans
1/8 – 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
3-4 boneless pork medallions
1/2 cup flour
1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 tablespoons oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  If your pork medallions are thicker than 1/4 inch, you should pound them out.

Pulse the pecans and bread crumbs in a food processor.  Set-up 3 shallow bowls with flour in one, egg in another, and the pecan mixture in the 3rd. Heat oil in oven-safe skillet on medium heat.  Dredge the pork in the flour, then the egg, and then the pecans.  Saute pork medallions in oil for approximately 4 minutes each side or until golden brown, careful not to burn the pecans.  Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the pork medallions are cooked through and slightly pink on the inside.  Transfer to a plate & enjoy!

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