Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year, New Ingredients

Sometimes even the most adventurous cooks and eaters can fall into a food rut, and while I don't consider myself amongst the most adventurous, I do lament that I have several "safe eating" patterns that I've fallen into in 2010.

With that in mind, I want to make a list of ingredients that I rarely, or never use, but would like to. Here are a few to get me started:
  • Eggplant
  • Tofu
  • Mussels
  • Tarragon
  • Fennel
  • Leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, etc.)
What ingredients do you shy away from? What would you like to see me experiment with in 2011? What are your New Years resolutions?

Happy New Year!


Monday, December 27, 2010

Giada's Chocolate Almond Honey Tart

Are you looking for the easiest and most impressive dessert recipe to bring to a New Year's party? Look no further than this yummy, RICH tart, with only 6 ingredients from Giada de Laurentiis. Be warned, it packs a lot of flavor, so serve small squares and watch them disappear! Pair with a chocolatini for a REAL chocoholic experience :)

Chocolate Almond Honey Tart

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature, plus extra for coating the pan
graham crackers, 5 1/2-ounces total
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
3/4 cup heavy

1/4 cup honey
12 ounces semisweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Place the graham crackers and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture forms fine crumbs, about 15 to 20 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, whisk the cream and honey together over low heat until the honey has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to just below a boil. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate filling over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.

Loosen the tart from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Unmold the tart and transfer to a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

Keep these in the fridge until ready to serve, as the chocolate gets messy if left at room temperature.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pear, Pecan and Sweet & Spicy Bacon Salad

Someone has been a naughty blogger. If santa read food blogs, I would've gotten nothing but coal in my stocking. Lucky for me, he doesn't :) Here's a yummy holiday salad if you're feeling naughty OR nice!

Pear, Pecan and Sweet & Spicy Bacon Salad

1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
Dash cayenne pepper
3 slices bacon
6 ounces spring greens
1 pear, sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
Balsamic vinaigrette

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the sugar and spices, then lightly coat bacon with the spice mixture. Lay on a baking sheet and cook until crisp.

Meanwhile, toss together the spring greens, pear, pecans and gorgonzola. Add in the cooked bacon and dressing, then toss to combine.

Enjoy as a light meal or pair with your favorite bread or salad for something a bit heartier.

Bacon Squash Risotto

What is perfection in a bowl? Salty bacon, creamy risotto and sweet butternut squash. This recipe has a short ingredient list, but it definitely isn't short on flavor! This was a perfect meal for two using up a leftover half of butternut squash and finishing up the bacon in the fridge. It's a fantastic post-Thanksgiving treat when you're tired of turkey :)

Bacon Squash Risotto

1 pound butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, at room temperature
5-6 cups chicken broth, warm

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread out butternut squash over a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes and remove. Set aside, keeping warm.

Meanwhile, heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp; remove from pan, reserving drippings.

Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings and saute 2 minutes. Add rice and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in wine and stir one minute, until nearly evaporated. Add chicken broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring often and pouring in more broth once it has been absorbed. This process should take about 25 minutes.

Remove risotto from heat and stir in parmesan cheese, reserving a few tablespoons for garnishing at the table. Stire in squash, reserved bacon and fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coq au Vin-Off

What do you do when Bon Appetit has a recipe for Quick Coq au Vin one month, and Cooking Light shares a recipe for Easy Coq au Vin the next month? Why - you try them both! Emily of Cooking Inside the Lines and myself often have similar tastes in magazine recipes, so we were tickled to find out that I had tried Bon Appetit's and she had tried Cooking Light's rendition. Naturally, we decided to flip flop and try the other and compare which coq au vin dish would reign supreme.

Quick Coq au Vin - courtesy of Bon Appetit

I made the Bon Appetit version with boneless, skinless chicken thighs and absolutely loved it for its depth of flavor and simplicity. I thought, how can a Cooking Light recipe match up against this?

Easy Coq au Vin - courtesy of Cooking Light

Although the ingredient list for Cooking Light's was longer, I enjoyed the added benefit and textures of veggies mixed in. Not to mention I used bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks.

In the end, Emily and I came to the same conclusion - we wish we could combine the two recipes! Either one you try, you'll be the hero of your dinner table - give it a shot!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Roasted Chili Citrus Chicken Thighs with Olives and Potatoes

I don't often post recipes that are straight from a magazine or cookbook, but in this instance, I just had to! Bon Appetit really knocked one out of the park with this delicious dish featuring one of my favorites - olives! You'll want to keep going back for more, and you'll definitely be fighting over the leftovers (that is if there are any!)

Roasted Chili Citrus Chicken Thighs with Mixed Olives and Potatoes

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch-wide wedges (ok, I didn't peel mine and they were just fine!) :)
8 large skinless chicken thighs with bones
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh parsley
50 olives (preferably mixed colors and sizes)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook potatoes in large saucepan of lightly salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.

Carefully transfer chicken and potatoes to platter, keeping potatoes intact. Place baking sheet over 2 stovetop burners. Boil sauce until reduced to 1 cup, about 3 minutes. Mix in olives. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper and additional lime juice, if desired. Pour sauce over chicken and potatoes; top with remaining tablespoon cilantro and serve.

Meanwhile, place chicken thighs on large heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle chicken generously with salt; drizzle with 1 tablespoon lime juice and set aside. Whisk 1 tablespoon lime juice, orange juice, chili powder, both paprikas, grated orange peel, ground cumin, dried oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl. Rub chili mixture all over chicken. Arrange potato wedges on baking sheet, nestling around chicken. Drizzle olive oil over chicken and potatoes. Bake chicken and potatoes 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Turn chicken and potato wedges; spoon juices over. Bake 10 minutes longer. Add chicken broth, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, and chopped parsley, stirring to scrape up any chili bits at bottom of baking sheet. Turn chicken over. Bake until chicken is cooked through and beginning to brown in spots, about 10 minutes longer.

Barbecued Pulled Pork Enchiladas

Have you ever found yourself in possession of a large amount of pulled pork? I love everything about it - making it is a breeze (hello easy crock pot meal!), it's so tender and juicy and there are a ton of things to do with it! When my roommate Rachel moved to Michigan, she bestowed her Omaha Steaks barbecued pulled pork stash upon me, so I was befuddled to do with 6 1-lb packs of pulled pork.

Luckily, Des from Life's Ambrosia has a great recipe for pulled pork enchiladas, which I've slightly adapted here. Trust me, you'll find yourself making a few extra pounds of pulled pork next time just so you can make these enchiladas :)

Barbecued Pulled Pork Enchiladas

For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper1 14-ounce can tomato sauce
1 roma tomato, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

For the enchiladas:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 poblano pepper, seeded and sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced
1 pound barbecued pulled pork, cookedCanola oil (enough to cover bottom of a skillet about 1/4 inch high)
12 corn tortillas
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

Warm olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Add onions and garlic and saute 3 minutes. Add in spices and cook another minute. Stir in tomato sauce and diced tomato and simmer 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in cilantro; set aside.

Meanwhile, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook about 8 minutes, until starting to char. Stir in pulled pork and cook to warm through. Remove from heat.

In a small skillet, heat canola oil until about 360 degrees (or when small bubbles form around the end of a wooden spoon when placed in it). Cook tortillas, one at a time, about 10 seconds on each side. Set on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9 x 13 pan, spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce over bottom. Place about 2 tablespoons pork mixture in each tortilla and top with about 1 1/2 tablespoons cheddar. Roll and place in pan, one right next to the other. Repeat until all tortillas are used and pan is filled. Top with remaining tomato sauce and spread remaining cheese over (1 to 1 1/2 cups). Cover and cook 15 minutes. Remove cover and cook another 5 minutes, until cheese and melted and just starting to brown.

Let sit at least 10 minutes before digging in, but this is also a great meal to make a day ahead!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Austin Must-Try: Uchiko

If you're a fan of food living in Austin, by now you've heard of Tyson Cole's new restaurant - Uchiko. Whether or not you've been is another story. I've been lucky enough to attend their soft opening, a private food blogger event and sit at the sushi bar with a friend thanks to a generous $100 gift card from their awesome PR team. Life is good.

As a result of my good fortune, I've tried numerous things on the menu, and yes, it IS that good. Are some of the menu items pricey? Yes, but they're worth it. There are also several affordable dishes that you can walk away feeling satisfied and with your wallet not fully depleted. The bottom line? You need to check Uchiko out - whether it's for a romantic dinner, a fun night out at the sushi bar or for their saki social happy hour where you get some great steals.

Here are a few of my favorites captured from my various trips there - I can't wait to go back!

My favorite bargain purchase: tempura eggplant. $4 for a bowl of these beauties - the texture is to die for!

You can't have an Uchi or Uchiko experience without having the pork belly - Tyson Cole makes the best! He's got two pork belly options at Uchiko - obviously I tried both. This is the bacon sen.
Just make sure you finish your trip with the fried milk. You'll thank me :)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bacon Apple Salad with Candied Walnuts

With the weather getting cooler, I often get excited about the slow cooker and other delicious comfort foods. With all that heaviness, it's refreshing to also celebrate fall with a crisp salad. I'd never candied walnuts before and was pleased not only how easy it was, but what a yummy difference it made in this salad. This one was simply satisfying!

Bacon Apple Salad with Candied Walnuts

1/2 cup walnuts

1 tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 slice bacon
1 shallot
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces salad greens
1 apple, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread walnuts over a baking sheet and roast 5 to 6 minutes. Toss walnuts with melted butter until thoroughly coated, then toss with brown sugar.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet, reserving drippings, and crumble. Add shallot to skillet and saute 2 minutes, then stir in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine salad greens, apple pieces and cranberries. Add walnuts, bacon and balsamic shallot dressing and toss to combine. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

Blackstar Co-op Review

I was very excited when I heard that Blackstar Co-op brewpub was actually open for business. When I first heard of Blackstar it was just a group of homebrewers and beer enthusiasts who wanted to share their love of beer with everyone. Since then they've actually built their own brewpub, and are preparing to brew their own beer for their official opening in mid to late October. For their soft opening until then they are serving a very nice selection of 20 craft brews from around the country, with a heavy emphasis on local breweries (Live Oak, (512), St. Arnold's).

I was sure the beer was going to be good, but I was curious about the food and service. Blackstar takes the English orderly queue style for ordering beer and food (think Draught House), but has a very modern open ambiance. The servers will not accept tips, and instead respond that they are paid a "fair and even wage". Personally I find this very refreshing... I'm not a big fan of the tip system, and I like not having to add 20% to my check at the end of the night. Despite this, the prices are very reasonable for both their food and beer.

Lindsay and I ordered Shrimp and Grits, Popcorn Tofu, and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Everything was amazing, especially the shrimp and grits. The grilled cheese came on some good sourdough bread, and with English chips (ie, fries) seasoned with plenty of garlic. Typically I'm willing to overlook some bar-food quality of good beer, but that's not necessary here. Needless to say, I'm sold.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Urban Restaurant Review

Hello AA Readers. This edition of Apron Adventures is made possible by the color Red, the number 10, and Luke. That's right, after being Lindsay's photographer for the last several months, I thought it would be nice to start actually writing some posts. Since Lindsay has the home front covered so well, my posts will mostly be restaurant reviews.

Last week Lindsay and I were invited to a tasting at Urban, the restaurant in the Westin Hotel in the Domain. They recently hired a new chef (Mizael Saucedo, formerly at Bess), and are in the process of creating a new menu. Our tasting menu had 10 items, including a dessert, but they weren't able to tell us which of those plates would make it on to the new menu.

First, the dishes that really stood out were the sweet corn bisque, which was thick and creamy, with a deliciously roasty yet tangy undertone, and the pork prime rib, which was just a perfectly cooked cut of pork, served with baked apples and a warm-tasting sauce. My menu says it was caramelized soy, but it tasted like some sort of squash.

A close second to my two favorites was the butternut squash risotto. It was cheesy and rich without being too heavy or too thick. Also worth getting was the steak salad and the bacon spinach salad. I tend to be a sucker for interesting steak or bacon salads, and both of these were good, but I'd pick the steak salad again just for the warm strips of steak with bright pink centers.

The rest of the dishes we were served were well prepared, but didn't quite stand out as memorable foods. The crab cake was breadier than I expected. The quail was quail, typical bone-picking complaints there. Keeping with the pork prime rib and the steak salad, the bar steak was excellently cooked (I like my steaks on the medium side of rare), but didn't have enough supporting flavors.

The one dish everyone at the table agreed was lackluster was the seared tuna, served with fingerling potatoes, and truffle vinaigrette. The entire dish was served somewhere between chilled and room temperature, which might have made sense for the tuna if it were a little colder, but really felt odd for the potatoes. The tuna itself tasted alright, but had almost no flavor.

For dessert we were served an avocado tres leches cake. Wow. I'm hard to please for desert because I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but this one was moist yet still fluffy, sweet yet not overpowering. I'd never had an avocado tres leches before. The avocado adds more to the texture than the flavor, and the result is a smooth creamy feel, and a slight green color.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Late Summer Vegetable Risotto

I finally made a trip out to the Barton Creek Farmers Market (open Saturdays 9 - 1), and loved all the delicious food! It reminded me a lot of the downtown Austin farmers market in terms of offerings, but the scene is different. Bonus is easy parking! Anyway, I pickedup some delicious tomatoes and wanted them to shine in a risotto since I haven't made one in ages. The tomatoes with the goat cheese offered that special something I was looking for.

Want to make this a vegetarian risotto? Forgo the bacon and use 2 tablespoons olive oil and replace chicken broth with your favorite vegetable stock!

Late Summer Vegetable Risotto

2 cups diced tomatoes (I used red and green tomatoes)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 ears corn, kernels removed
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, at room temperature
5-6 cups chicken broth, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast about 20 minutes. In the meantime, heat a large pot of water to boil, then cook green beans about 2 minutes to slightly cook yet keep some crunch. Heat a large skillet on medium heat and warm additional 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast corn and green beans about 10 minutes, until cooked and slightly charred. Set vegetables aside, keeping warm.

Cook bacon in a dutch oven over medium low heat until crisp. Remove bacon, preserving drippings. Stir remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil into bacon drippings and warm, then stir shallots and garlic into drippings and saute one minute. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook another minute, stirring.

Start adding broth to rice mixture, 1/4 of a cup at a time, stirring constantly. As rice absorbs the broth, add additional liquid. This should take about 25-30 minutes. If the rice is absorbing the liquid too quickly, turn down the heat. After the 25-30 minutes, mixture should be creamy. Stir in goat cheese and mix to incorporate, then add parmesan. Stir in vegetables and crumbled bacon and serve, with additional parmesan on the table. Enjoy!

Chipotle Pork Tacos with Guacamole

Looking for heat that gives a one-two punch? Try a spicy marinaded pork that's then pair with sauteed Hatch chili peppers. There was a whole lotta flavor wrapped up in those little corn tortillas - it had us both going back for more!

Chipotle Pork Tacos with Guacamole

1 pound pork tenderloin

3 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lime

1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 red onion, sliced

1 hatch chili, seeded and sliced

Canola oil (enough to go up 1/4 inch in a skillet)

8 corn tortillas

Sour cream

Cotija cheese

Place the pork in a large ziplock bag. Chop the chilies and place in bag with 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, garlic, lime, honey and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Rub marinade into pork with salt and pepper. Marinade 1-2 ho
urs in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove pork from ziplock bag and place in an oven safe dish. Bake about 30 minutes, until pork is 150 degrees. Let pork rest about 5 minutes, then cut into thin slices or shred.

In the meantime, heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Saute onions and hatch chilies on medium low heat for about 10 minutes, until soft and lightly charred. Set aside.

In a small skillet, warm canola oil until about 350 degrees, or when the bottom of a wooden spoon forms bubbles around it when placed inside. Cook tortillas in the oil one at a time for about 10-15 seconds per side. Drain on a paper towel.

Assemble tacos by spreading sour cream and guacamole on tortillas, then topping with shredded pork, peppers and onions and topping with cotija cheese. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto

So I realize I just did an extensive post on corn, but maybe you didn't know just how much I love corn. When I opened the August issue of Bon Appetit to find that they had a whole section devoted to corn, I turned into a giddy little girl. You will too (I don't care who you are) after you make this recipe.

I took a few small liberties, but the credit all goes to Bon Appetit. I can already tell this will be a favorite in my house for many summers to come!

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto
*includes a few tiny tweaks from yours truly :)

4 bacon slices, chopped
5 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and divided
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces tagliatelle
3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer 2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 3/4 cup Parmesan, 1/3 cup pine nuts and 1/4 cup basil leaves. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves, 3 tablespoons pine nuts and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Chicken Salad with Plums and Blue Cheese

This simple salad started as an excuse to use the remainder of some delicious blue cheese I had, but quickly escalated into a real punch of flavors that was so good! It's funny how that often seems the case - you make a meal simply to use up an ingredient but the results far exceed expectations.

Chicken Salad with Plums and Blue Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste

2 plums
5 ounces mixed greens
3 ounces crumbled blue cheese
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used some fancy date balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat a grill pan on medium high heat and spray with cooking spray. Pound chicken breasts to 1-inch thickness and season well with salt and pepper. Grill about 8 minutes on both sides, or until juices run clear. Let chicken rest about 5 minutes, then slice.

Meanwhile, slice the plums then toss with greens and blue cheese. Whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil together then toss with salad. Top with chicken and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gettin Figgy with It

Ok, super cheesy I know. However, I spent the weekend sampling figs at Central Market for a client of our California office's, the California Fig Advisory Board. Now, I'm already a HUGE fig fan. I discovered fig jam several years ago and put it on just about anything. Later on I found out just how delicious and succulent fresh figs are. So after a weekend of sampling them, of course I picked up some to take home for cooking!

Since Luke is out this week, I'm taking it a bit easy on the cooking (because of cooking for one and the fact that it's 100+ degrees out, and who wants to be burning up the kitchen?!). So, it's paninis for me. I love paninis because they're so simple to make, require only a few quality ingredients, but are such a TREAT!

Fig and Prosciutto Paninis

1/2 loaf ciabatta bread
2 ounces brie, at room temperature
4-6 thin slices prosciutto
4 ripe figs, any variety (I used calimyrna and black mission)

Slice the bread horizontally, then remove excess bread from the middle if it's too thick. Spead brie over top and bottom layers, then top with prosciutto. Slice the figs and layer over the prosciutto, then top with arugula. Then either place in toaster oven (which I did because I was at work) or press on a panini grill until the bread is toasted and cheese is melting. Note the before and after pictures and that ooey gooey goodness!

I forgot the arugula on my panini today, so it's no in the picture. But know that it adds a bit more veggie appeal and lovely green color!

Please note that this post is my own and is in no way associated with my agency or the California Fig Advisory board. I just love figs! :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Roast Chicken and Pickled Blueberries

Pickled blueberries. I wish I could say I was clever enough to think up - or create them- myself. Sadly, I am not. Luckily, I know people who are! The Cosmic Cowgirl was kind enough to share a jar of her pickled blueberries with me while chatting at the opening of La Sombra (was extremely pleased with their opening, and their pisco sours were delicious!).

Several weeks went by and I couldn't think of how to do these blueberries justice. Finally, I let them adorn a simple roast chicken breast and paired with delicious veggies which turned out to be just th
e right way to let these little berries shine. Not all of you will be lucky enough to enjoy these pickled blueberries yourself (unless she's kind enough to post the recipe on her blog - hint hint :) ), so perhaps try your favorite jam whisked with a bit of vinegar to add your own bit of zing to your favorite fruit.

Roast Chicken with Pickled Blueberries

3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons honey

Juice of one lime
1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/3 cup pickled blueberries

Combine garlic, honey, lime, olive oil and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Transfer to a large ziplock bag and add chicken. Seal and toss to coat chicken. Marinade for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shake excess marinade off of chicken and place in a baking dish. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until chicken is 165 degrees. Let chicken rest 5 minutes and serve with blueberries on top.

Rosemary Roasted Vegetables

4 carrots

2 zucchini

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 sprig rosemary (optional)

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

Peel carrots and cut into 1/2 inch thick sticks. Cut zucchini into 1/2 in sticks. Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place extra sprig rosemary on sheet and roast 30 minutes. Toss with fresh chopped rosemary and serve.

Rosemary Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes
(adapted from Claire Robinson's 5 Ingredient Fix recipe)

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup half and half

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary

Cut potatoes into 1 inch pieces and place in cool water. Bring to a boil in salted water and reduce to a simmer.
Cook until fork tender, about 35 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside.

In the same pot, melt butter and gook garlic one minute. Add half and half and stir to combine. Add potatoes back in and mash to desired consistency. Stir in blue cheese and rosemary and serve.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sweet Iowa Corn

If I'm going to take a month off of blogging without telling anyone, I better come back with one heck of a post, right? Well, what better way to start off a new cooking adventure in a new kitchen (that's right folks, Apron has adventured to a new - blue - kitchen!), than with fresh Iowa corn?

Smuggled in my suitcase across the country after a relaxing trip to visit family in Des Moines, I was the proud owner of 6 ears of corn that I dec
ided to use in 2 days. See this tasty take on a soup and salad dinner.

Fresh Corn Chowder

2 pieces bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

3 cups chicken broth

1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and chopped

3 ears corn, kernels removed
4 small red potatoes, cubed

1 cup half and half

Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped tomato

Heat a 3 quart cast iron on medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve drippings in pot.

Add onion and garlic to bacon drippings and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, stir in pepper, corn kernels and potatoes. Cover and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in half and half and season with salt and pepper. Use an immersion bl
ender to break up larger pieces of vegetables, maintaining some smaller chunks. If you don't have an immersion blender, either transfer to a blender in batches, or keep chunky.

Serve topped with bacon pieces, cilantro and tomato.

Shrimp and Roasted Corn Salad

2 ears corn, husks removed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups romaine, shredded
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup cotija cheese

Heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Rub corn with 1 tablespoon oil and cook on cast iron until corn begins browning on all sides. Remove and let cool slightly, then remove kernels.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing. Add pepper, cilantro, cumin and salt to a food presser and pulse. Add in sour cream and honey and pulse.

Toss dressing with roasted corn, romaine, tomato and cheese.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet on high heat. Toss shrimp with salt and pepper and saute in skillet 2-3 minutes until done.

What a delicious meal for me and my sweetie!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pork Chops with Peach Chutney

It's peach season in Texas, and I just can't get enough! I made this recipe with some very ripe peaches, and I may just recreate it with all the delicious peaches my friends and I picked in Fredericksburg this weekend! While I had several burners going on the skillet, this recipe was quite simple to assemble. I served it with brown rice and very simple, yet delicious green beans - I'll definitely be making that recipe again.

Pork Chops with Peach Chutney

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 ripe peaches, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 boneless pork chops
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium sauce pan on medium heat and warm 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add red onion and garlic and saute 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add vinegar and brown sugar and cook 2 to 3 minutes, bringing to a simmer. Stir in peaches and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Warm remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook until done, about 2-3 minutes per side. Serve with the prepared chutney.

Rosemary Parmesan Green Beans

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Steam green beans about 5-6 minutes, so that they maintain a slight bight. Toss with cheese, rosemary and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May Food Adventures

Alas, there's been a blogging drought on Apron Adventures, but that's not for a lack of food festivities! The month of May was quite busy and the summer shows no signs of slowing down. Happily munching on a delicious peach fresh from the Republic Park farmer's market, let me catch you up:

The people at Ruth's Chris were kind enough to invite me to a tasting. Having come to Austin as a poor college student, I never really envisioned RC's as within my price range, so sadly I've never been (even though I've now worked 1 block away for the past 3 years!) All I can say is wow, I didn't know what I was missing. Who knew the magical equation of a thick, juicy steak plus salt and pepper plus 1,800 degrees (yes, that's no typo) would equal decadent bliss.

If you're looking for indulgent food beyond what you could imagine, The Trailer at Gibson is the place to go. Imagine a cheeseburger sandwiched between donut slices (surprisingly the sweetness of the donut countered with the meat quite nicely) and a hot dog wrapped in bacon topped with a fried egg. Note, this is not for the weak hearted! I'd recommend coming with a hungry group to get a taste of everything. Luckily, they serve our group of food bloggers with small tastes so we could enjoy everything.

Most notably, I took a trip to Seattle with Luke where we then proceeded to eat our way through the city for 5 blissful days. Here are just a few of the culinary highlights:
  • Palace Kitchen, a Tom Douglas restaurant that stays up late and serves classic cocktails and fantastic appetizers (though I've heard the burger is also to die for). We loved the lavender and goat cheese fondue!

  • How to Cook a Wolf, in the charming Queen Anne district, boasts an ever-changing menu and a space with merely 6 tables and an L-shaped bar. We sat mesmerized by the executive chef slicing and dicing and were oh-so-pleased with our gnoccheti and halibut.

  • Etta's, another Tom Douglas restaurant right down in Pike Place Market. We sampled an array of apps and salads, most notably the ahi tuna salad and bread salad with asparagus. We came in not that hungry but couldn't put our forks down!

  • The Harbour Public House, just a 40 minute Ferry Ride over to quaint Bainbridge Island, is a surprising jewel of a pub. Serving a large list of Washington beers and wines, we once again found ourselves indulging even when we weren't hungry. The menu was quite diverse, but we went for the Canadian favorite Poutine since neither of us had tried it before. The verdict: heavy but delicious!
We happened to be in Seattle during the Seattle Cheese Festival (an annual festival that occurs in Pike Place Market - did I mention it's free?!) Besides the dozens of samples we enjoyed, we watched a session on how to make your own mozzarella. I'd long toyed with the idea of making my own, and this was just the motivation I needed! Over Memorial Day I trekked to Central Market to buy mozzarella curd and proceeded to make my own. The process is a bit tricky, however the most difficult part was reaching into scalding water and handling the cheese! My mozzarella turned out quite tasty (I made it into a margherita pizza with fresh homemade pizza crust), but I think I'll leave cheese making to the experts :)

Now grilling season is upon us and I feel obligated to tell you to go buy the June issue of Food & Wine. They feature one of my favorite grilling magazine features, grill once eat twice. I made not one, not two, but THREE of those recipes in one weekend. Do yourself a favor and check it out :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mango Chicken Curry

When life gives you mangos, make curry! That may not be an obvious conclusion for many, but I've recently started experimenting with making curry, and this was my best yet, which I based off of the Chicken Curry recipe in the March issue of Cooking Light. I used a smooth, ripe Ataulfo mango, but any ripe variety would be tasty in this dish!

Mango Chicken Curry

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
2 14-ounce cans coconut milk
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 ripe mangos, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 cups cooked Jasmine rice

Heat a large, nonstick skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then saute until browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet. Heat additional tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat and saute onion, garlic and peppers for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Set aside with Chicken.

Combine the coconut milk and curry paste in skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until it thickens, about 10 minutes. Stir in mangos and cook about 2 minutes, then add chicken and vegetables. Serve with Jasmine rice.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrating 25 Years

This past weekend was a time to celebrate anniversaries, 25th anniversaries that is! Not only was it the 25th anniversary of the Hill Country Food and Wine Festival, but it was also my 25th birthday! I could think of no better way to celebrate than with being with my friends enjoying delicious food and wine.

I started off the weekend by having a tasty three course dinner at Hudsons on the Bend with Luke. I went with the girls for restau
rant week in the fall and knew that Luke would love it for all the unique meat choices. I knew I wouldn't be disappointed when we chose the Luigi Bosca Reserve Malbec - a smooth, excellent complement to the meat (especially the pecan grilled venison Luke had for the main course).

We started with the infamous Rattlesnake Cakes - paired with a smoky chipotle sauce, they were delicious, though sadly (or maybe not!), I couldn't really tell I was eating rattlesnake. The three courses were just the right balance of flavors, textures leaving me quite full, but not disgustingly so. A wonderful birthday meal!

I'd been looking forward to the wine festival ever since the delightful time we had last year, resulting in delicious free Whole Foods produce. Last year, our stand-out favorite was Siena from Ferrari Carano Vineyards and Winery in California, and it was a favorite again. The food vendors seemed to be few and far between and the tasting sizes were disappointing, except for Spec's who definitely delivered. Overall, it was a fantastic day to enjoy local and national food and wine along with some classic Texas music and hospitality.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Herb Panko Crusted Fish

I love Luby's. It seems to be one of those polarizing places that people either love or hate. I grew up with almost weekly family meals at Luby's, and I still lament the fact that I don't go there more often even though it's changed over the years. This fish is a nod to my favorite dish there, the almondine fish. It's simple, delicious and easy :)

Herb Panko Crusted Fish

3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup oregano, chopped

4-5 large basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups panko (or plain bread crumbs)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 eggs, whisked

1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 pounds cod (or other firm white fish)

1 lemon, sliced into wedges

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat a large cast
iron skillet on medium high heat with the olive oil. Combine the oregano, basil, cheese, panko and salt and pepper in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and set aside. Place the flour in a shallow dish.

Season cod with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour, then dunk in egg so that all of the fish is coated. Dredge in panko mixture so it is thoroughly coated. Place in cast iron skillet and cook 3-4 minutes, then flip. Place skillet in oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fish is flaky and 145 degrees internally.

Serve with lemon wedges and with roasted potatoes and Lemon Oregano Asparagus (recipe below).

Lemon Oregano Asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound asparagus, woodsy ends removed and then sliced into 1-2 inch pieces

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon oregano, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium nonstick skillet on medium heat and warm oil. Place asparagus in skillet and saute 8 to 10 minutes. Add lemon zest, oregano and salt and pepper and cook another 2 minutes. Serve!

Spicy Sausage Vegetable Pasta

I got this delicious jalapeno cream cheese at the farmer's market and knew that it needed a special purpose. Paired with spicy Italian sausage, then tempered with a creamy sauce, this was a great contrast of flavors and textures. If you can't find jalapeno cream cheese, simply dice a jalapeno and add it with the mushrooms, then use plain cream cheese.

Spicy Sausage Vegetable Pasta

1 pound whole wheat pasta
1 pound asparagus, woody ends removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups marinara sauce
4 ounces jalapeno goat cheese
1/3 cup cream
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook 5 minutes. Add asparagus to pasta pot and cook additional 4-5 minutes. Drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, breaking up into small pieces. Drain fat and set aside in a bowl. Warm the skillet again on medium and heat up the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook additional 3-4 minutes. Stir in the marinara sauce and cream cheese and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cream and simmer another 3-4 minutes. Add sausage back to skillet, and then pour entire skillet mixture into the large pasta bowl. Add 3/4 cup Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and toss.

Serve with additional Parmesan on the table for sprinkling.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Antonelli's Cheese Shop - Good Neighborhood Cheese

Last weekend I wandered down to Hyde Park to check out Antonelli's, Austin's newest cheese shop. I'd met owners Kendall and John Antonelli at a cheese and beer pairing workshop put on by Tasty Touring last December at Independence Brewery. These newly weds have a great story that Addie Broyles captured in the Austin American-Statesman.

Walking in, the store was somewhat crowded with three customers, so I had to wait about 5 minutes to be served. No problem there, however, since John remembered me from the cheese and beer pairing workshop and greeted me - so nice to be remembered!

I told him I was looking for a good melting cheese to use on a panini, and he let me sample the Prefere de nos, which had the consistency of brie but the taste was stronger - delicious! I also mentioned I wanted a good snacking cheese, and after a few samples, I walked away with a Clothbound Cheddar from The Cellards at Jasper Hill. I think next time I'll be a bit more vaguAdd Imagee about what I'm looking for so I can sneak more samples :)

Since the shop is small, their selection isn't the largest in town. But the service they offer and the constant update of their cheese selection is well worth the visit. Go check it out next time you're near Hyde Park!

Of course I had to try out the melting cheese immediately, so here's the panini recipe that was DELICIOUS:

Turkey, Bacon and Pesto Panini with Melting Cheese

1 loaf ciabatta, sliced in half horizontally and sliced into fourths
4 ounces Prefere de nos (or brie cheese), sliced
8 ounces turkey
8 slices cooked bacon
4 ounces pesto
4 ounces lettuce

Preheat a grill pan or panini press on medium heat and spray with cooking spray.

Place a few cheese slices on the bottom pieces of the ciabatta loaf, then top with turkey, bacon and lettuce. Spread about 1 ounce on the inside of the pieces of the top loaf and place on top of sandwiches.

Grill sandwiches about 4 minutes, then turn (if cooking on a grill pan) and cook addition 3 minutes or so, until nice grill marks appear on bread and cheese is melting.