Sunday, June 29, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet 9 - Celtics Win!

Homegrown Gourmet, my precious little blogging event, is celebrating round 9 with a delightful theme of PASTA! Fabulous!

My friend Megan at Joy Through Cooking is hosting this round. I was really excited at the idea of basing a recipe on pasta- we eat lots of spaghetti and ziti and all that great stuff.

But as I got thinking about it more, well, what the heck is a New England pasta recipe!? I mean, sure, my husband and I have our favorite restaurant in the North End of Boston, but that's just Italian. And my Italian grandmother makes stuffed shells for many holiday meals, but what's so special about that?

There was always lobster ravioli, but I am not fan of dealing with ravioli and lobster isn't on the top of my list. My mom always made American Chop Suey but I also always hated it. What to do, what to make?

Then it hit me... I wanted to celebrate the Boston Celtics recent NBA Championship win with a gorgeous green and white dish! Adam and I hadn't made fresh pasta in ages, so a lovely batch of spinach pasta was whipped up. Then to top it, I chose a very New England choice of a white clam sauce.

I've got to say, this was delicious. Adam thought the sauce was buttery (only 3 Tbsp!)and flavorful, and I thought it was tender and just the right amount of seafood. We devoured the entire batch in one night and I thought it was a great tribute and a fun Homegrown Gourmet entry!

Champion Celtics Spinach Pasta with White Clam Sauce
Spinach Pasta based on
  • 1+ C. Fresh Spinach
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 C. Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Warm Water

  1. Bring a few cups of water to a boil in a small pot. While the water heats up, remove any stems from the spinach leaves, leaving just the smooth flesh.
  2. Blanch the spinach in the boiling water for just 1-3 minutes, until it is bright green.
  3. Quickly remove the spinach from the water with a slotted spoon or similar utensil and rinse it with cold water.
  4. Squeeze the spinach in your hands, getting as much moisture out as possible. I also gave it a quick run through a paper towel. You should have about a 1/2 cup of cooked spinach in that mushy ball.
  5. Put the spinach in a food processor with the olive oil and puree into a smooth consistency. Add in the two eggs and blend it up again.
  6. Now here is where I wish I had gone with my gut instead of the instructions. The original recipe calls for you to add the salt and flour into the food processor to work the dough. I put in the salt and some flour and mostly ended up with a gooey mess. My processor wasn't big enough for all the flour, so I had to attempt to get the dough out and then work in the remaining flour- what a pain! When I do this again, I will mound up the flour on a clean surface and make a bowl in the center of the flour. I will pour in the egg mixture and slowly work it into the flour to make the dough. Or I'll just use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
  7. Regardless, you need to work in the flour gradually to form a solid ball of dough. Knead the dough until it is firm, yet springs back to the touch. I let my dough rest for 30 minutes only to start extruding it from the machine to find it was way too soft. We added more flour (getting up to 2 cups total) and then went right into making the pasta. If your dough is too dry, use little splashes of the warm water until the dough softens up.
  8. Use your Kitchen Aid pasta attachment or other pasta maker to form the fettuccine. Let it sit, separated, and dry for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Get a large pot of water boiling. Cook the fresh pasta for 3-5 minutes until it is just al dente. Drain and serve topped liberally with clam sauce below.

White Clam Sauce based on
  • 3 Tbsp. Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped
  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/2+ C. White Wine
  • 2 (6.5 ounce) Cans Chopped Clams, with Juice

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent and delicious smelling!
  3. Pour in the white wine and simmer until reduced by about half.
  4. Pour in the clams with all the juice and continue to simmer, until slightly reduced. Serve hot over pasta.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eat to the Beat II: Purple Rain

Eat to the Beat is back!

You remember, right? The event that challenges food bloggers to make a recipe inspired by a song? I'm psyched it is back, but I had kind of hoped we'd have some constraints this time. However it is another open free for all, so I went with an idea I came up with after last round. Something 80's inspired...

I'm more of a 90's alternative or pop or jazz or classical or techno girl- 80's are not my style. Last round I went with the alternative angle with Hell cupcakes. They were fun to make and I loved that I had to challenge myself and got to be really creative.

So like I said, this time I went to the 80's for inspiration, specifically, Prince. I'm not a big fan of 80's music, and Prince is right up there in things I generally dislike. But thinking about his song "When Doves Cry" I found an idea.

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just too demanding;
Maybe I'm just like my father- too bold.

Maybe you're just like my mother,
She's never satisfied.
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry.

The idea of doves with a bold flavor, or maybe salty like tears,- sounded good. I looked through a cookbook I have called Perfect Chicken Dishes and found something perfect! It called for Cornish hens- doves? It called for a unique stuffing- bold? And it had port and grapes- purple! Perfect!

My submission for Elly's Eat to the Beat Summer '08 is below! I hope I made that weird little rocker man proud!

When Doves Cry Cornish Hens with Port Sauce & Grapes
Modified from Perfect Chicken Dishes
  • 2 Cornish Hens
  • 1/2 C. Chicken Broth
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
  • 1/2+ C. Port
  • 1 C. Purple Grapes
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2/3 C. Chicken Broth
  • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. Water
  • 1/4 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1 C. Couscous
  • Toasted Almond Slices
  • Chili Powder

  1. Prepare the Cornish hens to be roasted in a slow cooker; remove innards, rinse and pat dry the skin, and rub in the salt and pepper on the skin and in the cavity.
  2. Place Cornish hens in the crockpot with the 1/2 cup of broth. Cook on low heat for about 6-7 hours until tender and cooked through.
  3. 30 minutes before the chicken is ready to come out, heat the port on medium heat to a low simmer in a small pot. (That's a lot of size adjectives, huh?!) Simmer it down to a little more than half.
  4. Place the grapes in the pot and stir them around to coat with the port reduction and to soften a little. After 2-3 minutes, remove the grapes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Add the butter to the sauce and melt. Slowly add in the chicken broth, stirring continually. You will want the heat to remain on medium and the mixture to keep simmering. Boil until it is reduced by about half.
  6. Mix together the cornstarch and water in a tiny bowl until smooth. While the sauce boils, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch mixture and stir. This will thicken the sauce up.
  7. Turn the heat down to low and blend in the cream until the mixture is smooth and rich!
  8. As you are finishing the sauce, boil 1 cup of water for the couscous. The couscous gets added to the boiling water, is covered and removed from the heat. It is cooked after about 5 minutes. You can then add the chili powder and almonds. Truthfully, my side dish was the weakest part of the meal, and you should make whatever you think is appropriate!
  9. Serve the hens on a pool of sauce, with the grapes and couscous (or whatever) on the side. I also added some steamed broccoli to finish off the plate.

Keep on rockin' on in the kitchen all! And Eat to the Beat!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tasty Little Salad

The hot weather is here which means the grill is going to start racking up the miles and the salads are going to increase. This little ditty is nothing so exciting, but it sure was tasty! Paired with a mustard based marinade on the grilled chicken, it was a great side.

Apple and Cheddar Salad

  • Raw Spinach
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Sliced White Mushrooms
  • Granny Smith Apple, cored and cubed
  • Walnuts
  • Sharp Cheddar, cubed
  • Honey Mustard Dressing

  1. Tear up the lettuce and place it and the spinach on a plate as a bed.
  2. Mix in the mushrooms, apples, cheese, and walnuts to your liking.
  3. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy on a hot day!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Leaning Towers of Eggplant

As with the chicken recipe featured just before this, I found it on another blog that I subscribe to, Dori's The Foodie Fashionista. And like the previous entry, it was delish!

Now I recommend that you click on the link below in my recipe source to view the original blog entry. Her stacks are lovely and tall and certainly not melty and keeling over. Mine however, as exhibited in the photo below, were less that attractive. Ok, they were a mess! I think I maybe got a little too enthusiastic with the cheese filling. What can I say, I love cheese.

The eggplant had a wonderful flavor and I loved that this was vegetarian, but not your standard lasagna. The smell in the kitchen was so tempting too. But when I took a peek in the oven to check the progress of my completed, it was clear this was not going to be a smooth transfer from pan to plate. As soon as I touched the first stack in an attempt to serve it up, it slid apart. Eh, that's ok- we ate them as was and enjoyed every bite!

Baked Eggplant Stacks
From The Foodie Fashionista

  • 1 Large Eggplant
  • Salt (I used Kosher salt, but I think any will do.)
  • Olive Oil or Other Non-Stick Cooking Spray (Seriously, you'll need this. I didn't bother and it was a mistake.)
  • 1 C. Ricotta Cheese (I used part skim.)
  • 1/2 tsp. Basil
  • 1/2 tsp. Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1 C. Shredded Mozzarella
  • 2 C. Pasta Sauce

  1. Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/4" thick.
  2. Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant rounds with salt and place in a colander in the sink, allowing the moisture and bitterness pull out of the veggie. After about 30 minutes, rinse off the slices and pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with the olive oil or cooking spray. If you don't do this, your thin rounds will adhere to the surface and have a critical failure when you try to scrape them off later. Foil is not a good alternative to greasing- I promise.
  4. Bake rounds for about 30 minutes, flipping once mid-way through roasting, until the eggplant is tender and aromatic.
  5. While the eggplant bakes, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, and herbs.
  6. Remove baking sheet from oven after the 30 minutes to start assembling the stacks.
  7. Place some of the ricotta mixture in the center of one eggplant round. Carefully stack a second round on top of that using a spatula. Continue repeating the cheese and eggplant layers until you are satisfied with the size of the portion. It is not a bad idea to build multiple towers at the same time to judge how many you will end up with.
  8. Once you have built the tower up to the desired height (not too high- they'll topple!) place a dollop of the ricotta mixture on top and then smother with a nice spoonful of the pasta sauce. If you'd like, add some more mozzarella on the very top for melty goodness.
  9. Return baking sheet to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes until everything is warmed through and melted.
  10. To serve, every so carefully with a spatula attempt to remove a stack without it falling over. If it falls over, it's ok, serve it up anyway and eat all the pieces as they are delicious! I served this with a side of pasta and used the extra sauce for dipping the stacks in and for the ziti.

Chicken with Thyme Cream Sauce

Yummmmmm! One of the best things about the food blogging craze is discovering new recipes that real people have made, documented, and reviewed. No more worrying about if those smarmy, know-it-all Food Network stars are lying to you about just how great their recipes are!

I went through a bunch of saved recipes last month and decided to make a delicious looking recipe from my friend Nicole's blog, Ginka's Goodies. Although she had a mishap with dried vs. fresh thyme, I learned from her slip-up and thoroughly enjoyed her Chicken with Thyme Cream Sauce. Yum, yum, yum!

It has been a while since I actually made this, but I seem to recall I followed the recipe pretty closely and that it was relatively quick to make and very very tasty. I served it with fluffy white rice and raw spinach- both of which were excellent with the sauce coating them.

Chicken with Thyme Cream Sauce
From Ginka's Goodies

  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Green Onions, chopped
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1/2 C. Chopped White Mushrooms
  • 2/3 C. White Wine
  • 1 1/4 C. Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 C Fresh Thyme & Parsley (The thyme is so small compared to the parsley, but I was generous with my portion.)
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat and add the chicken.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes, turning the chicken once so that it is a golden brown color on both sides.
  3. Reduce the heat some and cook the chicken for around 10 minutes more or until is it cooked through completely. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add the green onions and garlic to the pan and cook gently, stirring until the green onions are softened not browned.
  5. Increase the heat back to medium high, add the mushrooms and saute for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken back into the pan and then pour in the wine. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until most of the wine is evaporated.
  7. Add the cream and gently mix the ingredients together. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Stir the herbs into the sauce and season to taste.

Gone Vacationing!

2 blog posts for May. Isn't that sad? What on earth have I been doing... eating PB&J, getting take-out, fasting? No, no- it was just a busy month with the main use of time being 10 days on the west coast for a vacation to San Francisco and Napa!

Oh, it was lovely- much needed and very entertaining. Not only did we see wonderful sights, we ate well. (This is a food blog, right? Gotta' mention the food.)

We had Italian in North Beach, Chinese in Chinatown, hippie California infused meals in Haight-Ashbury, sushi as recommended by a Japantown employee, as well as great Mexican, French, California wine, and cafe food.

Below are some highlights- then it's back to the cooking!

Thug life at Alcatraz

Feasting in Chinatown (Fried calamari with an asparagus appetizer in the background)

Riding the cable cars- hanging off the front!

On the observation deck of the DeYoung Museum

The Bridge

Wine tasting in Napa