Monday, May 21, 2012

Little Miss Mussels

Did you ever read the Little Miss and Mr. books when you were a kid? I loved them! That's besides the point here though unfortunately.

It took me a long time to come around to mussels. For the longest time I thought they looked strange and the thought of figuring out how to eat them in public, let alone attempting to cook them, intimidated me. I finally had mussels and fries and was transformed. The transformation was complete when I visited Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Vegas back in February - his were so decadent and well-presented, the ultimate feast!

Finally, the stars aligned for me to "muscle up" and make some on my own. While flipping through this month's Family Circle, they had a recipe for Mussels and Fries in their budget section - mussels are affordable? Who knew! So I walked down to Whole Foods Market, and low and behold, mussels were on sale! I bought some on the spot and made some for Luke the next day for a welcome home lunch. He approved. Here's my variation on FC's dish:

Mussels and Fries

2 pounds baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon thyme sprigs
1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
6 leaves basil, freshly chopped
2 pounds mussels
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine

Heat oven to 450 degrees . Place mussels in a large bowl of lightly salted cold water. Set aside.

Peel potatoes and, using a mandoline (a birthday present from Luke!), slice into 1/2 inch thick fries (alternatively, cut by hand). Toss with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Scatter in a single layer on a baking sheet along with 1/2 of the thyme, still on the sprigs, and bake at 450 degrees for 17 minutes. Using a metal spatula (not tongs, I did and I broke a few!) flip potatoes and bake 15 more minutes or until they are browned. Remove from oven; toss with additional salt to taste. When ready to serve, sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano and basil.

Meanwhile, debeard mussels by pulling off the seaweed-like string between the shells. Discard any open mussels. (If open, tap on the counter; if shell closes, you can keep it.) Place mussels in a new bowl.

Melt butter in a large, lidded pot over medium heat (I used my medium-sized cast iron dutch oven). Stir in red onion and saute 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and saute another 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine, remaining thyme and salt to taste; bring to a simmer. Add mussels, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes, or until shells have opened and mussels are cooked through. Discard any mussels that did not open.

Serve fries alongside mussels and cooking liquid.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Put an egg on it Pasta

I love cooking and make homemade dinners probably 6 nights a week. When Luke goes out of town for business however, it's a different story. I take the time to catch up with friends or whip up a pot of simple homemade mac and cheese for comfort. Last week was different. This meal was inspired by my full vegetable drawer that had been ignored all week, and it was super satisfying!

Put an egg on it Pasta

6 ounces fettucine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, chopped
2 eggs
6 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
1/4 cup pitted olives, chopped
6 ounces spinach
1/3 cup part skim ricotta
8 sprigs fresh basil, chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste

Before the finishing touch - the egg!
Place a large pot of water to boil. Cook fettucine to al dente and drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

In a large skillet, warm olive oil on medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes, then add zucchini and cook another 5 minutes. 

While zucchini is cooking, in a small saucepan boil water. When it just reaches a boil, bring the temperature down so it's simmering (and add 1 tablespoon vinegar if desired), then crack an egg in a mug and slowly lower it in the water. Repeat with the other egg. Cook about 3 minutes for a fairly runny yolk, then remove with a slotted spoon. Cover to keep warm.

When zucchini starts to brown, stir in tomatoes and olives, then spinach. Toss in fettucine and toss to combine. Stir in ricotta and reserved pasta water as needed for desired consistency. Place in bowls and top with poached egg, then sprinkle with basil and Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put an egg on it!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Date" Night Chicken

I love a good pun, especially when it involves food. While "Date" Night Chicken would be great for a date, it more just stars the sweet flavor of Medjool dates that I love so much. Inspired by some boneless, skinless chicken thighs I snagged on sale, this is a mash-up of Braised Chicken with Dates and Moroccan Spices from Bon Appetit and Chicken, Date and Apricot Tagine from Cooking Light. I was afraid of losing some of the juiciness in the chicken by using boneless/skinless, but it was perfectly tender. A+ from the husband!

"Date" Night Chicken

1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 red onion or 1 large shallot, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 15-oz can chickpeas
8 pitted dates, sliced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
Fresh parsley, optional
Basmati rice for serving (or couscous!)

Combine the spices (through pepper) in a small bowl. Sprinkle over chicken thighs and rub all over. Heat oil in a medium dutch oven or other heavy pot with a lid. Brown the chicken on both sides (about 4 minutes per side), then remove to a plate and tent with foil. Add onion and garlic to the pan and saute 3-4 minutes. Pour in chicken broth and whisk in tomato paste, then bring to a boil. Add chicken back to pan and chickpeas. Reduce heat and cover, cooking for 15 minutes. Stir in dates.

Place rice or couscous on your plate and top with chicken mixture. Sprinkle with pine nuts and parsley, if using. Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

In our old place, Luke and I enjoyed this Double Green Smoothie almost every work day morning for breakfast as a great way to pack fruits and veggies into the first meal of the day. While I still love it, I figured with a new house, it's time to work in new weekday breakfast items as well. What I love about this is that it seems like such a treat, but if you hard boil your eggs in advance, it only takes 5 minutes to make!

Egg and Avocado Sandwich
Serves 2

4 slices whole wheat bread (we prefer Seeduction bread from Whole Foods Market. English muffins would work well too!)
1/2 medium-sized avocado, peeled and sliced
2 ounces spinach
1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled
1 hard boiled egg, peeled and sliced

Lay out your bread and top 2 slices with avocado, slightly smushing to make it like a spread. Layer spinach and goat cheese on top, then place hard boiled egg slices to hold it down. Top with remaining 2 slices of bread. Cook in toaster oven for about 5 minutes, until bread is toasted.

Serve with a side of fresh fruit to really round things out!