Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Pining" for Greek Salad

This was the first week in a long time where I didn't go to the grocery store on Sunday (two nights in a row of Austin Restaurant Week will do that to you!) Faced with a last minute shopping trip on a Wednesday after work, I wanted to use up some items I knew I had- half a butternut squash, a can of chick peas and pita bread. The resulting salad had a lot of different flavors and textures, my nod to a Greek salad. Everyone went for seconds!

"Pining" for Greek Salad

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup pine nuts
12 ounces baby spinach leaves
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
4 pitas, warmed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss diced squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil and roast in the oven 30-40 minutes. While squash cooks, heat a medium-sized non-stick skillet on medium heat and toast chickpeas, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add chickpeas to a large bowl. In the same skillet, heat on low heat and toast the pine nuts, 4-5 minutes, constantly stirring. Add to the salad bowl along with spinach, shredded chicken, feta, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Once squash is done add to bowl and toss. Serve with warmed pita bread.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sweet Butternut Squash Orzo Salad

This past weekend was rainy and dismal in Austin and perfectly divine! The weather got me in the mood for fall (well, that and getting my October cooking magazines in the mail!) I served the orzo with the Panko-Crusted Chicken with Mustard-Maple Pan Sauce from the October issue of Bon Appetit. Such a great pairing!

Sweet Butternut Squash Orzo Salad

2 cups orzo
1 2-lb butter nut squash, diced and roasted
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh sage, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook orzo to package instructions. Toss with remaining ingredients. Tastes great the next day too, so make extra.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hatch Chili Meatballs and Pesto

I love the excitement that hatch chili season creates. If you factor in food bloggers to the situation, excitement increases ten fold. The bloggers threw a hatch chili-themed potluck last month which I was so excited for. The first thing that came to my head was meatballs, so I just went with it.

My roommates were kind enough to be my taste testers. Good thing! The original recipe used sweet Italian sausage instead of hot, and there was less spice. It was a bit bland, so I kicked it up for the bloggers. When it's not hatch season, try this recipe with an assortment of peppers for a slightly different flavor.

Hatch Chili Meatballs and Pesto

5 hatch chilis, stemmed, seeded and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound lean ground sirloin
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

4 hatch chilis, roasted, stemmed and partially seeded
1 red bell pepper, roasted, stemmed and seeded
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons almonds
3 tablespoons pecan pieces
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup Manchego cheese, shredded
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

24 ounces spaghetti
Additional shredded Manchego cheese

For the meatballs, preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients (through sirloin) thoroughly with your hands. Mix in all other ingredients until combined. Form into 1 inch balls and place on greased baking sheet. You should get 3-4 dozen. Bake for about 30 minutes.

While meatballs are cooking, make pesto. In a food processor, add peppers and garlic; pulse. Add nuts and pulse again. Add in cilantro, lime juice and cheese; pulse. Season and pulse once again. With processor running, stream in olive oil until you reach your desired consistency. Serve as a topping to cooked spaghetti, meatballs and with additional Manchego cheese as needed.

On a recent trip home I picked up one of my childhood favorite books- Strega Nona. Long story short, Strega Nona has this awesome pasta pot that she can make as much pasta as she wants. She goes out of town, and silly Anthony tries to use it and ends up flooding the entire village with pasta! Thankfully we didn't have that problem at dinner, but my roommates did enjoy story hour :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

In Your Dreams Brussel Sprouts

Ok, I have an embarrassing food confession. I dream about food - a lot. A few weeks ago I had the most vivid dream about hosting a dinner party where I served a delicious brussel sprouts dish. Mind you I've never actually cooked brussel sprouts. Well, the dream stuck with me, so I decided to recreate my okra masterpiece to see if my dream sprouts held up. It was delicious and simple and made me realize that I actually DO like brussel sprouts!

In Your Dreams Brussel Sprouts

4 pieces bacon
1 package fresh brussel sprouts (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat and cook bacon until crisp. Remove from skillet and reserve drippings. When cook, crumble.

While bacon is cooking, remove stems from okra and cut in half if large. Add diced shallots and brussel sprouts to bacon drippings in cast iron skillet and saute 10-12 minutes, until sprouts begin to brown and is no longer crunchy. Stir in vinegar, crumbled bacon and season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

I served with a simple pretzel honey crusted chicken and homemade mashed potatoes. For chicken, I bought chicken thighs, coated them in honey then dredged in crushed salted pretzels. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes or until chicken is 180 degrees (170 if using chicken breast).

Finished it off with a tasty sauvignon blanc :)